By: Mary DiMartino
If you know me, you know I LOVE kids – absolutely love them. This past week in South Dakota on the Cheyenne River Reservation, I had the opportunity to work with kids every day. You can imagine how excited I was to hear that. The first day we worked with them I met a 7-year-old boy named Tyler. We played tag and hide & seek in the gym and I had such a good time hanging out with him. I spent the rest of the evening with him and found myself getting attached to this one little boy after just a few hours. Each day after that, I was counting down the hours until 4 o’clock, when I could see Tyler. And if he didn’t show up right at 4, I would be disappointed and wishing he was there.
Over this past year I worked at an after-school day care for elementary schoolers and spent every week day with them. 15 hours a week, 52 weeks in a year – 780 hours I spent with those kids. I had 12 precious hours with Tyler, and I can honestly say I developed an equally strong and meaningful relationship with him. Tyler always managed to put a smile on my face. Here are a few times this little boy, without even thinking about it, made my day:
- When he first remembered my name: On the first day he would keep forgetting my name so I would ask him what my name was every 10 minutes so he would remember. The next day when he came into the gym he ran up to me yelling “Mary!!!” I was so touched that he remembered me AND my name.
- When he drew me & him on his buddy bag: For our craft on the first day, we made these things called buddy bags. Everyone got a brown paper bag and decorated it however they wanted. The purpose of these bags were to give each other notes, pictures, bracelets, etc. throughout the week so when we left, we were able to leave a piece of us behind with them while bringing a piece of them with us. After Tyler was done with his bag, he came up to me and showed me it. On it he drew a picture of a girl and a boy, and he said, “That’s you and me.”
- When he made me a bracelet: After Tyler decorated his buddy bag, he made me a bracelet with beads!! I plan on wearing it for as long as I have it (I’m trying my hardest not to misplace it).
- When he came to The Main: One day he didn’t show up in the gym so I assumed he wasn’t coming. I was so sad that I wouldn’t be able to hang out with him. When we got to the Main I went to my room to grab my water bottle, and when I came back out to the common room he was standing there with a baseball bat, ball, and glove smiling. In that moment I was so honestly so happy to see him.
- When we played baseball together: I’m not into sports whatsoever but playing catch with Tyler outside was so fun. I loved seeing him doing something he enjoyed so much.
- When we played Jenga: Back home, my friends and I always play Jenga. After cleaning up after dinner one night I found Tyler sitting on the ground playing it. I went over and played it with him for the rest of the night. It was a nice reminder of home and I enjoyed doing something I love with him.
- When we built a tower with building blocks: Another night we took out the building blocks and built a giant tower. Each time it fell down we would just build it up again. Seeing him get excited after placing another block on top each time put a smile on my face.
- When he kept telling me to sit next to him at dinner: On our last night on the reservation Tyler kept repeatedly asking me to sit next to him during dinner. It made me happy that he enjoyed my company and wanted to spend time with me.