Written by Jessica, a former youth in care and Children’s Aid Foundation ambassador.
Recently, I’ve started a new role working with youth in care. Working with children in care has allowed me to love bigger than I ever thought possible. There’s something about working with children; a simple, indescribable feeling that you only understand when you truly connect with them. It’s honestly true when they say you get what you give in life; when you give others your time and your heart, you get back so much. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection and I’m learning to give the simple things in life a lot more merit. It’s not about expecting, but rather it’s about having a great intention. Below are five lessons and ways that I have experienced heart-growth through simple acts of giving and connections with tiny humans.
“One of the most beautiful compensations in life is that no person can help another without helping themselves” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
1. A BOX can do wonders.
Love is the pillar of everything in this life, whether you see it that way or not. One of the kids who I pick-up after his visits was always feeling very down. Sadly, as a 6-year-old, he could not comprehend why he could no longer have sleepovers (overnight visits) with his mom. After picking him up he would sometimes just stare out of my window in complete and utter sadness and confusion. One day, he really opened up to me and told me why he was upset. I then told him my story and also about a box that I made for myself with things and photos of my mom for whenever I missed her. To me, it was a way of always having her “there.” To me, my box was a place to put all of the positive memories and pictures that I had of her. It was also a way to hold onto how I wanted to see her, (on her good days), not necessarily how she can be, (when she is off her medication, and she becomes very verbally abusive). No matter what, this one box of positive things to connect to my mom. He LOVED the idea of making a box, but we decided to make a box for his mom instead. In the box him and his sister wrote letters to their mom as well as placed things inside that were special to them so that their mom could always open the box when she missed them, which they found comforting. Although this principle might not apply to everyone, I think it’s important to have many boxes in life, places where we can keep our most special memories. These boxes can be folders on a desktop, physical boxes, even photo albums or scrapbooks. Sometimes we need to create our own luxuries in life and when we have close family that we can’t always be with “a box” is an excellent way to hold on to the positive side.
2. 360 degree rotations truly happen in life.
The aforementioned anecdote truly showed me that life truly can turn around 360.
Growing-up, I actually had supervised visits at the Kennedy office; never in a million years did I imagine myself picking up children from there and spending quality time with them. Life sure has its ways of going 180 degrees, and sometimes 360 right back to where you started. We are sometimes taught to move on from the past, but sometimes it’s beautiful to acknowledge the past and realize just how much you have grown. Every so often, I take comfort in reflecting on how much of a miracle my life has been. Embracing your old self can be very empowering.
3. Helping other humans to grow is the single most empowering thing you can do.
In life we grow the most when we help others to grow and reach their full potential. This can happen at a corporate level or even among friends. With the help of those around me, I have learned that I am able to make a difference in the lives of many children and it’s truly a blessing!
4. We all wear masks.
Another formative activity I did with another youth in care was an “inside and outside mask.” In this activity, I shared with her my mask. On one side you write out how people see you (loud, extroverted, fun, etc.), but on the other you write how you really feel about yourself (introverted, unsure, shy, etc). It’s so important to look inside and acknowledge who you truly are; self-growth and acceptance are two keys to a mindful conscious life.
5. Giving is the most wonderful feeling in the world.
After I made “the box” with the young boy, other youth expressed that having their own would help them. So, I decided to give them their very own box! Seeing him and his sister’s faces after giving them the boxes made my heart grow so much. Sharing my story and things I did growing-up is freeing for me and empowering to the youth I work with; I am so excited for what is yet to come. Love is truly the pinnacle of life.