My son joined Lion’s Heart during 6th grade largely because I signed him up. He’s always had a compassionate heart and interest in helping others, but signing him up got him to expand his natural tendencies and learn more about not only himself but the world around him. He’s volunteered in a variety of capacities and for different organizations while being a Member, but he was always a little wary of actually being in charge of younger kids or being responsible for their enjoyment of an activity.
I work as a School Psychologist and have always loved working with kids even when they are at their most challenging (actually especially then). We’ve had lots of conversations through the years, and he has consistently responded to one of my stories with, “I have no idea how you do that Mom. I really don’t think I could be patient enough to work with kids.” I always secretly thought that he would actually be good in my kind of job though he pegged himself as a future engineer from an early age (which if true would perhaps contra indicate the patience to work with kids).
Last summer, he signed up to volunteer at a performing arts camp in Orange County. Honestly, his primary motivation was to earn as many hours as possible during the summer as he anticipated he might be busy with homework when he entered high school in the fall. He signed up for 2 weeks of 40 hours per week. After his first full day, I picked him up and he practically fell into the front seat of the car while saying, “Mom, I have no idea how you have the patience to work with little kids all day, stay upbeat, speak in an encouraging tone, and still come home to be a mom to us. Speaking in that Kindergarten tone is exhausting.” After his younger brother and I stopped laughing, he gave us more information about the activities during the day. His insight to the challenges of some specific campers and his general understanding of how to approach their needs was spot on. By the end of the first week, he proclaimed that he actually truly enjoyed working with the kids. The exhaustion was ever-present, though he found an appreciation for working with kids that he would not have discovered had he not signed up for the camp.
So after this long-winded explanation and recounting of his experience, you might be wondering why I’m even posting this. The upshot is that my son discovered something valuable through a volunteer experience that was presented to him by Lion’s Heart. He still says he wants to be an engineer, but there is an interest in working with kids that wasn’t present prior to the performing arts camp. Deciding now on a future career is difficult. He’s only a Freshman in High School. What I want for him as his mom is to expand his views on what he might be interested in or in what kind of career he might find ultimate satisfaction as an adult. Trying out different kinds of activities through volunteering has been a powerful experience for him. He may still be an engineer, but there is a little part of him that is wondering if maybe, just maybe, he might be a good psychologist too. Regardless of the path he takes, I thank Lion’s Heart for allowing him to explore interests and help others at the same time.