Time passed. I went to college. I had amazing friends and wonderful experiences at BYU. While my major was Psychology, my minor was Dating, Socializing, and Watching Brigham Do the Funky Chicken.
I also did volunteer work.
I started out as a Big Sister in the Big Brother/Big Sister Program. Mine and my partner Lance's charge was a 13-year-old girl named Jamie. She was overweight, shy, and self-conscious in most areas of life. But she loved when Lance taught her (and me) to play tennis, when we played board games, and when I talked with her about boys. She had a Jason Priestly poster on her bedroom wall, so we bonded over our fantasy crushes on 90210.
After a year and a half, Jamie "graduated" from the BBBS program. Wanting another volunteer opportunity, I asked around. Another friend introduced me to a crisis shelter called The Family Support and Treatment Center, and I had a 3-hour shift every Saturday morning. Parents who were registered for counseling were encouraged to bring their children to the crisis nursery whenever they needed a time-out to regroup and take care of pressing matters affecting the family.
I played hard with the kids. Every Saturday I went home and made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich--the same thing the kids ate right before I left at noon. I loved my time with those kids. Some were a bit indifferent to the volunteers, but most were hungry for attention. One child who really touched me was a 6-year-old girl named Ashley. After spending a majority of my shift with her, she made me a card. The front was a picture of a rainbow. The inside read: "Thank you for being here. I love you. Please don't ever leave this place."
Oh! I wished I didn't have to. I wished I could take Ashley home with me, even though I was only 20, naive, and inexperienced--and she already had a family. I knew I had enough in me to bring her into my circle, to love her as my own. I remember feeling grateful to have a heart with the capacity to care for others.
The only thing missing from my work at the FSTC was someone to share the experience with. And so I asked a new friend, a sweet red-haired guy who lived in my apartment complex and worked in the office next to me in the Kimball Tower, to go with me. And he did.