“I thought we were going to color with the little kids. I don’t want to do this.”
So said a 16 year old girl. And the adventure begins!
It had been an interesting experience. Each year our local United Way chapter has something called a Day of Caring. Community folks do volunteer work at different nonprofit organizations. I wound up being the team supervisor for a group of high school students who were dispatched to a local horse farm where they practice therapeutic riding for kids with autism.
None of us knew where our placements were beforehand. This was my first year. Apparently this young lady had done work at a local United Way affiliated daycare center last year, and thus was ready to color with the kids all over again.
When we got to Shepard Meadows we knew it would be a different story.
Another group of volunteers were already at work painting a barn. We soon found out our job was to paint a newly built fence. Brushes, gloves and little buckets were waiting for us, as well as a giant bucket of white paint. Ten of us filled up our little buckets and went to work.
As we painted I couldn’t help but smile to myself. The young lady who wanted to color actually got her wish. Only instead of using crayons to color with kids she was using paint to color a giant fence. A slightly different kind of coloring. Turns out she got nearly as much paint on herself as she did the fence.
But she was a trooper! Actually, all the kids were. They painted away in the hot sun, barely taking a break. It turns out the staff at the farm thought we’d only get about half the fence done in the three or so hours we worked. We got nearly the whole thing done, and ran out of paint. What a crew!
And whether she knew it or not, my little friend was probably doing more good than if she had helped one youngster with coloring pictures. Because of her and the rest of the team, many kids who have a hard time communicating any other way are going to ride horses. They will learn confidence, communication on a deeper level, even love.
When we finished, all the kids were tired but happy. They felt the sense of accomplishment. My little friend complained about the paint that had ruined her t shirt and shorts. But there was a gleam in her eye and a little smile on her lips.
We all have talents and skills. We’re all gifted. Most of us only allow our skills to come out when we’re in our comfort zone.
We can color anywhere. We can build anywhere. We can communicate anywhere.
And we can love anywhere.
Working – and playing – in a different environment than our usual one gives us a chance to grow. It shows us how capable we are.
And it gives us a chance to serve those around us.
What can you do today that will help you expand? What abilities do you have that, put to different use, will challenge you, make you bigger, stronger, more complete and more amazing than you already are?
Who is waiting for you to step up, step out and “color in” their world?
P.S. Take a look at Shepard Meadows. If you have a therapeutic riding center near you, it’s worth your support. If not, feel free to support this magnificent place in Connecticut!