With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I wanted to introduce a Sunny Star who is one of the most giving people I know. Amanda Fisch is a truly selfless person. Not only does she volunteer with LA Team Mentoring, she is also a wonderful friend who is always ready to share a kind word. Hearing her tell her story reminds me of how much happiness we gain from helping others and how much happiness we can give to others through service. I hope that Amanda’s words will inspire you to give back in your own special way!
1. You recently started working with LA Team Mentoring. How has the experience already brought you happiness?
One of the most amazing things that happened in the first week of mentoring was when I was able to get the kids excited about school. You see, middle schoolers are right between the stages of I-like-candy-and-games-and-being-silly and I’m-too-cool-for-that-stuff. To be able to pull out their inner child and watch them go beyond the wall of ‘cool’ and put themselves out there and actually take a leadership role was exciting. Also, it was great to know that I had already made a difference in the short time I spent with the kids. One little boy asked me if I was going to be there for the entire year, and I responded truthfully and said that I might have to switch schools at Christmas time. He looked at me with sad eyes and said, “So we only get to see you five more times?” Although my heart broke when I had to say ‘yes,’ it also brought me great happiness to see that these kids had already decided they liked me and wanted me around. They allowed themselves to open up to me, and trust me not to make fun of them for participating.
2. How do you think being a mentor will bring happiness to a child’s life?
I think that one of our core needs as humans is to have people that care about us and are there for us, and that is what mentoring can bring to a child. Many of these kids don’t have a stable home life, and many of their parents are working so hard that they cannot always give them the time and attention that they desire. So we can fill that role, and send them the message that they ARE worthy of our time, they ARE special, and they CAN do something amazing in their lives. We give them support that they may not get anywhere else, and have tons of fun in the process!
3. What do you think is the greatest challenge facing children these days?
Like I said above, kids now-a-days are being raised by very busy parents. Many people work multiple jobs just to make the ends meet, especially in the communities that we are reaching out to. So I think many of these kids are raising themselves, or are being raised mostly by older siblings. This doesn’t create a ton of stability in their lives. Parents can love their kids til the ends of the earth, but kids need time. They need attention. And sometimes that just isn’t available to them. I also think that kids are growing up entirely too fast. They watch TV and movies that tell them to act like adolescents, and most of them are barely 12. They have lived tough lives, with the media dictating how they SHOULD act and SHOULD dress, without giving them the opportunity to just play games and be silly.
4. How do you think we can help these children lead happier lives?
I think we can help these kids lead happier lives by showing them that it’s ok to be ‘uncool’ and involved. One of the things that I joked about with the kids was that I am a total nerd. At first, they were like, “But you don’t look like a nerd, nerds are lame!” That gave me the perfect opportunity to say, “No way! Nerds are awesome!” and offer a different definition of ‘nerd’ than what they see in the media. We can show them that it’s okay to be smart, to play games, to be happy. We can show them the love and attention that they crave, and guide them along the path to teenage-hood.
5. How do you think children can affect your happiness along with other young adults?
I think everyone should hang out with kids. Kids have so much potential for greatness. In every one of those kids, I could see a light that hadn’t yet been blown out by hard times. Most of these kids come from less than ideal home situations, but once they let me in and accepted me as a friend, I could see innocence and the hope that they carried. We as college students get so wrapped up in grades, classes, outside activities, etc. that we don’t stop to think about how far we have truly come. One of the kids looked at me and said, “You’re old,” and it made me really think about that concept. We should treasure our children and learn from them, and be excited for their potential for greatness, because we were just there. We were just in their shoes, and look at us now! They can remind us of a time that was less stressful, less complicated. And by inspiring greatness in them, we can in turn be inspired by their enthusiasm.