I’m a new mentor in the P.A.L.S program at the Phoenix Youth at Risk, and yesterday afternoon I picked up my new mentee Jasmin from her elementary school for our first outing. It was an unusually and surprisingly cold and windy day in Phoenix, AZ., and I was in high spirits and very excited to be out in nature and to get to know my new friend!
We had made plans the week before to go hiking, and I was dressed in my hiking gear and ready to go. As I was waiting for Jasmin to come out of her school, I watched the most adorable children exiting the building with these huge smiles on their faces as they saw their mom, dad, and other loved ones awaiting them. I couldn’t help but smile along with them; witnessing such natural and pure expressions of love.
At this school the grades are dismissed in order from kindergarten to sixth, so Jasmin was one of the last ones to come out. As she approached me I noticed that she was shivering and hugging herself to try and stay warm, while holding her jacket in her other hand. I gave her a big hug and then offered to hold her oversized and very heavy backpack so she could put on her coat. Then as we walked to my car she proceeded to tell me that she was freezing and she hated the cold. Oh well I thought, there goes hiking…
So I immediately offered up a plan B, as I knew that she also loved to go to the mall. She took me up on my offer without hesitation.
As I don’t know that end of town very well, I drove us to an indoor mall on my end of town, Scottsdale Fashion Square. Our conversation flowed easily in the car and for the next couple of hours in the mall, as we walked, talked, and warmed ourselves with hot chocolate and cinnamon pretzel bits.
Jasmin showed me some of her favorite accessories in stores such as Hot Topic and Claire’s, as well as how to make a teddy bear in the Build-A-Bear Workshop. We talked about our favorite Disney characters in the Disney Store, and I learned about and saw some of the new fashionable teen styles, such as the Skinny Jeans, in Macy’s.
For those two hours I felt like I was 13 again; light hearted and playful, without a care in the world.
Jasmin is quite a remarkable young girl, and I look forward to many more excursions and shared experiences. I know that I will learn just as much from her as she will from me, and I am very grateful that she is in my life!
Love and blessings,