One of my favorite parts of the “off season” (the fall season in which we don’t have groups coming regularly) is volunteering on my own at ministry sites of my choice. Although I have several favorites, I find myself at Yellowstone Academy most often – this private school is located in an area of Houston’s Third Ward known as the Bottoms. The kids, who are coming from extreme poverty situations, are given an education in the context of a loving Christian environment. I’ve been volunteering at the school for nearly three years, but I’ve recently been absolutely amazed at what I’ve seen. Let me tell you the story.
Mr. and Mrs. Torres, a couple from Venezuela, are the custodial staff for the school. This being their first year in the position, they immediately took an interest in the school far beyond sweeping and mopping. Each child is an important part of their day as they have learned faces and names. One young lady, in particular, has become a friend of Mr. and Mrs. Torres. This special first grader looks forward to their arrival each day and even recently asked me, “Have you met my friend, Mrs. Torres?” Not only do they relate well to children while on the job, though, Mrs. Torres has even begun to arrive at the school early so that she may have time to volunteer with her special first grade friends before beginning her custodial work. As she teaches the students words and phrases in Spanish, they help by teaching her new English words. The partnership is precious.
I love the picture of the Torres’ and the Yellowstone students. Folks who wouldn’t normally have connected in life are able to be friends. Language barriers, differences in culture and background, and even their positions at the school (as custodial staff, as students) don’t seem to matter too much when the focus moves off of those things and onto an attitude of kindness, appreciation and love. I recently asked Mrs. Torres if she and Mr. Torres had any children. She smiled, and with a twinkle in her eye said, “Yes – 198 of them!” She then ran off to play tag on the playground. I hope that this can be a challenge to me this Christmas – to love people. To look beyond what I see, or what I automatically assume based on appearances or positions. After all, we probably would have never imagined that a tiny baby born in a stable would actually be the promised savior of the world. The King of Kings. The Prince of Peace.
-Megan Breed, CSM Houston Associate City Director