Continuing our daily Advent reflection series on the Feast of St. John Damascene, Domestic Volunteer Chanda Ikachana writes about an experience at her volunteer site, Mary House.

I love working with kids! Their innocence is refreshing, their joy infectious, and their potential for growth astounding. I was most recently reminded of this at my weekly service site, Mary House.

Edgar is a 6th grader, one of the “older” kids at Mary House, whom all the other kids look up to and respect. There isn’t a single kid at Mary House who doesn’t like Edgar. John, on the other hand, is a little different. He doesn’t seem to have a filter, and so he says every single thing that comes to his mind. This often gets him in trouble, as the other kids often don’t appreciate what he has to say.

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When it’s time for “outside play”, everyone always wants to be on the same team as Edgar. I’m always impressed with his maturity and how he’s always looking out for all the other kids, including John, even when all the other kids want to leave him out. The other day, the kids got together to play soccer. They got in teams, made a plan, and began to play; however, even though John was part of a team, they all ignored him and didn’t pass him the ball.

Edgar noticed that the other kids weren’t being very nice to John, so when he had the ball, he would pass it along to John and encourage him to play and score. He did this throughout the game, and eventually, the other kids were receptive and began to include him by passing him the ball as well. I was struck by how the influence of this one kid that everyone likes, could make such a difference for this one kid who was different. I couldn’t have been more proud of Edgar in that moment, grateful to his parents for raising such a responsible boy. I felt like a proud mom.

In a time when there’s so much bullying in schools, it’s wonderful to see kids such as Edgar, the “cool kids”, who are willing to include everyone, especially the kids who would otherwise be outsiders. It was heartwarming to see this 12-year old recognize his ability to change the situation and then actually change it. His parents are doing a wonderful job raising this wonderful young man! I can only imagine the wonderful things he can do in his future. I look forward to being with him and the other kids, watching them grow into their potential over the next year. And I couldn’t be more excited for all the wonderful possibilities!