Thu, Sept. 19

My Turn: How will you change a child's life? How will they change yours?

I used to be a member of the Denver Country Club.

Now, I am a member of the Cottonwood Club. Anybody heard of it? Sounds fancy and elite? Doesn't it? No. It's our Boys & Girls Club of Cottonwood, in Old Town behind the Civic Center where every school day, a group of us kids get together and have a great time.

The other day out on the basketball court, Felix fell and HARD! Our sports director helped him get up. He dusted him off and asked him if he was OK. He could have shuffled him off to the side, but he made sure that Felix was alright. At the end of the day, when Felix was going home, the coach asked him again to see if he was doing OK. He took just a little extra time instead of worrying about the points from the missed shot.

Who was it, when you were young, gave you a hand up? Who was that special older person who gave you just an hour or even 10 minutes out of their day to give you a little quality time?

Five minutes is all it takes to make an impression, and 10 to change a life. Ten minutes can change several lives. A small word of wisdom, or simply allowing them the freedom to be who they are, will make a difference.

You don't have to be a member of a club to make a difference. You don't have to do much of anything at all to make a difference.

I could stand here and give a fund raising speech or talk about the organization as a whole, but I'm not trying to convince you to give money. You have to decide if you want to make a difference in a young person's life. You must decide if you want them to make a difference in yours.

One little boy got into a car accident when he was 5 years old. He went crashing into the windshield and has two scars; One on his chest, and the other, an emotional scar from the fact that his mother did not survive. He certainly has a story to tell, but needs a hand doing his homework, and reading those simple words out of his reader so some day he can tell his story.

Life can be pretty overwhelming for a 6 year old, especially when his father is addicted to crack. (Maybe you live next door or just down the street.)

What will you do to make his day a little better, or help him stay away from drugs?

There might come a time when a child will no longer be living here because her mother has gone to jail, and the only caretaker lives in another city, So just a simple hello today will make her feel better.

You might not ever know, but you will know you made a difference in someone's life.

I remember when my neighbor taught me how to tie my shoe. I was too embarrassed to ask my teacher. I thought that I was too old and that I ought to know by now. All my friends did.

When I got home from school that day, she saw my head hanging low, asked me what the matter was, and sat down with me for 10 minutes and slowly showed me how to tie my shoe. I'll never forget her. She made a difference in my life, because she cared.

When it was first suggested to me to teach art at the Cottonwood Boys & Girls Club, I thought, "Geez, I just don't know if I have the energy. I just don't know if I can." I thought of every excuse in the book not to be involved because I had a terrible experience in the teaching field where I had labeled myself a failure because I didn't achieve my teacher's certification.

Then one day, I was driving over in Sedona, and the director of the Sedona Club noticed my truck all decked out with fancy lettering, something about "ART!"

She invited me to her club and I was so impressed with all the creative projects she was doing with the kids. She asked me to be a guest artist so I proudly brought my potter's wheel, and gave a two-day hands-on wheel-throwing session. The kids loved it!

Then she referred me to the Cottonwood Club.

To make a long story short, I've been able to use my special talent, and, I've fallen in love with the kids!

They have made quite an impression on me, and really have changed MY life.

These children have taught me about the true meaning of the word "GIVE."

I may have made an impression with these hands, bringing my specific talent of throwing on the wheel, or a few words of wisdom, but they have pulled me up when I'm feeling down.

I've learned more from them than I ever could have learned from achieving a teaching certificate.

They have taught me how not to take myself so seriously, but to be the best I can be!

How will you change a child's life, and more importantly, how will they change yours?

Kat Strickland is a resident of Cottonwood.

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