It seems there’s a rumor going around that I’m an exceptional person. Every time I mention to someone that I’m the Lead Mentor for The Utah Mayfly Project, I’m greeted with “What you are doing is amazing” and “You’re inspirational” and “You have the best hair.” (Okay. Maybe not that one. But I really want good hair.) My inbox has been flooded with over-the-top kindness from people telling me how incredible I am for doing this, and if truth be told, this causes all kinds of anxiety because I know the truth, and it’s time to let the masses in on it.
There’s a false belief that you must be some kind of “special person” to bring a child into your life that isn’t your own, like I must possess some above average ability to care for or connect with a child. While I covet every word of encouragement and appreciate the thoughtfulness, I can’t have people thinking I’m anything extraordinary. Because I’m simply not. I’m just one person trying to make a difference.
As excited as I am about mentoring fostering kids, they certainly aren't excited about being foster kids. My personal sense of excitement does not drive my efforts; their personal tragedy does. Heartache that has followed them most of their life is always on my mind. My desire to see good come out of bad, a willingness to embrace what is broken and do whatever it takes to bring healing is what drives me.
My point is, there is nothing special about me. I’m a little weird, messy, and sometimes I’m not overly friendly. I get aggravated. I get tired. I have both fear and faults. The only thing “special” about me is that I have the privilege of spending time with some AMAZING children, which would not have been possible if I hadn’t signed on as a mentor.
I get to spend time with children like Ms. Mariah…… a little girl who’s had a rough start in her short years on Earth. Mariah was born in 2009 and was immediately placed into the foster care system. When she was about a year and a half old, she was sent to live with Brian and Miranda S., her foster parents who happily agreed to take her into their home. Mariah was one of the lucky ones, as she was eventually adopted by her foster parents in 2011. Over the years, her adoptive parents divorced, but Mariah knew she was loved by both regardless. Unfortunately, on January 16, 2017, on Mariah’s 8th birthday, her mother passed away from ovarian cancer. Mariah has had a rough year, while her and her dad struggle to make a new life for themselves without Miranda. Mariah’s dad is an avid fly fisherman and a veteran. He knows the healing power fly-fishing can have on the soul, and is hoping that with The Mayfly Project’s help, Mariah will be able to heal a little more, giving her heart a chance to recover after the loss of her mother.
I get to spend time with children like Z…. a young teenage boy who has been in and out of foster care most of his life. At 14 years old, living in a treatment facility, Z has struggled with being able to control his emotions. I was told that at times, he can be somewhat volatile and aggressive, prone to violent, physical outbursts. We were told that he really struggled to express himself to others, and without the words or outlet to express his emotional pain, he resorted to “self-cutting”. We were told we would need to perform “hook checks” after each outing to ensure he hadn’t taken a fly to be able to injure himself with it later. Upon meeting Z, I was made aware of the remnants of past and present cuts, as evidenced by his inability to take off a long sleeve shirt in 95° weather because of the shame and embarrassment he felt from all the scars on his body, while fresh cuts were still bandaged. But what I also saw was a truly charismatic young man with an infectious smile. I saw a child who was eager to learn all he could about fly fishing and when instructed, was an absolute natural. I saw a Mayfly mentor develop a quick and heartful connection with Z, and upon asking Z what his high and low for the day was at the end of our last outing, he answered, “My high was that guy” (as he pointed to Danie, his mentor). Then, with a huge grin on his face, he said, “Man, I don’t have a low”.
So instead of focusing on me and what I’m doing, let’s focus on these children and what they are enduring and battling through every single day of their lives. THEY are the amazing ones! THEY are the ones who are inspirational. Celebrate the opportunity to open your hearts to kids in need, knowing that if it be for just a few days or (if you make that magic connection) maybe even a lifetime, you've been given the unique opportunity to offer them some things that are desperately needed - love, guidance, compassion, and attention.
by Verlicia Perez (Utah Lead Mentor)