Adolescent Awakening

Adolescent Awakening

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

Adolescent Awakening

We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.
~Cynthia Ozick

Growing up, I wanted to be just like my mom. She was kind and compassionate. People always seemed to feel comfortable in her presence. For years, she was a volunteer in our community. I loved going to the local nursing home with her to help while she taught the residents a ceramic class. Their eyes lit up when Mama walked through the door. The ladies, their lips stained crimson, would gossip and snicker as they painted their pottery. I looked forward to those days. Until I hit my pre-teen years. Suddenly, I was too caught up in my adolescent world to worry about helping others. On one particular summer day, when I was twelve, Mama came into my room and told me to get up, get dressed and meet her at the car.

I had planned to spend the day at the lake with friends. Why did she have to ruin everything? Eventually, I made my way outside. The sun was stifling. I imagined the cool, crisp lake water relieving my sweltering skin. Irritated, I climbed into the car and slammed the door shut. We sat in silence. I was too upset to make conversation.

“Tasha, would you like to know where we are going?” Mama asked calmly.

“I guess,” I muttered under my breath.

“Sweetheart, we are going to volunteer at a children’s shelter today. I have been there before and I think it would benefit you to visit,” she explained.

I felt a knot slowly form in my stomach. How was I supposed to help there?

When we reached the shelter, I was rather surprised. It was a spacious white Victorian home. As we approached the large front porch, I noticed a porch swing and several rocking chairs. Wind chimes played a soothing tune while hanging ferns welcomed us. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad.

Mama rang the doorbell. As we stood waiting, my hands began to sweat. I wasn’t sure if it was the summer heat or the anticipation of what I was about to encounter. Moments later, the heavy oak door flew open and we were greeted by a plump woman with fiery red hair and sapphire eyes. She led us to the front room where all of the children were playing. Toys were spread out across the floor. I noticed a baby whose body was scarred with iron marks. I was told it was because she wouldn’t stop crying. I cringed at the thought. The majority of the children had noticeable physical scars such as dark bruises, deep scratches and blistering burns. Others hid their emotional wounds.

As I took in my surroundings, I felt a gentle tug on my shirt. I looked down to see a little girl with brown eyes looking up at me.

“Hi. I’m Ashley. You wanna play dolls with me?” she asked, her cherub face beaming.

I looked over at Mama for reinforcement. She smiled and nodded.

I turned back toward the young girl and whispered, “Sure. I would love to play dolls.”

Her tiny hand reached up and grabbed mine, as if to comfort me. And we walked toward the dollhouse.

My mom taught me a valuable lesson that summer. I returned to the shelter with her several times. During those visits, some of the children shared their troubled pasts with me in great detail and I learned to be grateful for all that I had. Today, as I strive to instill values and morals in my own child, I reflect back to that experience. It was a profound time in my young life that I will never forget.

~Tasha Mitchell

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