Today as the sun rose over the rolling mountains of the Californian horizon, I could feel the beginnings of an amazing LA day. Before the bus pulled into the AJU parking lot, we were greeted with Dan Kaiman, a local rabbinical student, who warmly treated us to a rap-esque version of “Hinei Ma Tov” to get us pumped for the day ahead. When I glanced around the circle at my peers, I saw huge smiles unfold across everyone’s faces…A pretty nice way to start off an early 8:15 am day. Following our singing circle we got on the bus and drove over to LA Family Housing where we have been working all week. Today was a continuation of most of the tasks that we had started yesterday, and we broke up the group into our respective working parties. I was in the children’s library sorting through the seemingly endless number of books on the three shelves. What started as such an incredibly daunting task that overwhelmed the library crew, eventually led to a sense of great accomplishment as we finished organizing and cleaning the entire library. It was a really great feeling knowing that the organization appreciated our work and that the kids would truly benefit from the clean-up we had done.
From LA Family Housing we had lunch in the sunshine at a local park before going over to Hazeltine Elementary School to work with the kids. Although at the onset of the trip I had not had much experience working with kids and initially felt quite anxious about it, I now found myself looking forward to seeing my homework students, (Emma and Ashley), and my group for KidzLit, especially one little boy named Juan Carlos. Helping Emma and Ashley with homework has been really great, as they are both so eager to have me help them, and in general just have my attention. Emma even told other kids, “She’s my Becca,” when other students tried to sway my focus from her, which I thought was really sweet. Homework time with the kids was brief today and I could sense their disappointment at my quick departure into the time for KidzLit. During KidzLit along with Eric, I led a group through a lesson plan as we read the book “The Bat Boy and His Violin.” Today the kids were especially engaged, and Juan Carlos, who had not wanted to read out loud to the group earlier in the week finally mustered up the courage to read aloud today, but only if I would read along with him. Later in the session, we initiated coloring and drawing activities for the kids, and Juan Carlos watched as I drew my picture and then proceeded to ask me to help him with his. I had drawn a jersey since the book discussed baseball and sports uniforms, and Juan Carlos watched as I drew mine, and then replicated my drawing on his own paper in order to be like me. Yesterday he had drawn a picture of himself, Eric, and I and dedicated it to me which I was touched by, so today I reciprocated the sentiment by signing my drawing and giving it to him. I saw his face light up and I truly began to feel like I had made a difference, and I realized how rewarding it could be to work with kids.
Overall, today was a lot of fun, and opened my eyes to the small gestures that can truly translate into such significant differences in other people’s lives. Whether it is simply cleaning up a communal space or just simply giving someone a little more attention, these are things that can make a change in someone else’s life.