News from the Tennessee Valley Religion

Eileen M. James

'Suffer the little children': be a youth mentor

Jesus told his disciples, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God."

Could Jesus have been calling the disciples away from worldly ambitions to become as little children — humble, innocent and inoffensive? What would our world be like today if we lived as little children and followed the master by doing good unto others?

I believe that the words of Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, speak to this question in "Science and Health with Key to the Scripture." She said, "Implicit faith in the Teacher and all the emotional love we can bestow on him, will never alone make us imitators of him. We must go and do likewise, else we are not improving the great blessings which our Master worked and suffered to bestow upon us."

I had read about the good work of the Volunteer Center of Morgan County and met with Linda Johnson, youth services administrator, about the Friend 2 Friend Mentoring Program. A mentor is any caring adult willing to spend one hour a week making a positive difference in a child's life. The mentoring visits are during school hours on school property, and background checks and training are required. In the Decatur City and Hartselle schools there are 20 children needing mentors, especially men. The Volunteer Center matches mentors with students. I knew I wanted to be involved in this work.

At the first meeting of new mentors, Leah Brown, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters, spoke of the benefits a child receives from having a mentor. She reported that 85 percent of mentored children have an increase in self-confidence. Sadly, there are 52 children in this community-based program still waiting for mentors.

It reminded me of my third-grade experience, feeling lost and withdrawn in school. Then a music teacher visited class for a few weeks. She alternated weeks of teaching music and penmanship. I loved singing but not doing the penmanship drills — drawing perfect circles and straight diagonal lines on large-ruled paper. When she discovered my name started with "E" like hers, she took me under her wing and showed me how to write "E" as a reversed treble clef in music.

Her kindness inspired me and changed my outlook in school. To this day, my signature "E" is the way she taught me.

I can never repay that wonderful teacher for the good she did unto me, but I can repay her in kind by doing good unto others — by mentoring a child.

Eileen M. James of Huntsville is First Reader at First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Decatur. She is one of several local religious leaders writing religion columns for THE DAILY. For more information, call Melanie Smith on Tuesdays or Wednesdays at 340-2468.

Eileen M. James Eileen M. James

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