Sep 092009

Barb Arland-Fye plays the accordion for children at Positive Parenting at Trinity (in Trinity Episcopal Cathedral) in Davenport as part of a volunteerism day sponsored by United Way of the Quad Cities Area.

By Barb Arland-Fye

Michelle, the preschoolers’ teacher, introduced three female visitors to the class who all wore white T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase “Live United.”

The visitors also had name tag stickers on their shirts. After the children participated in a learning activity to help them identify letters, words, numbers and colors, Michelle asked them: “What is something that is the same about our visitors?”

“They all have stickers!” one of the children piped up.

Michelle smiled in amusement. Of course, she and we three visitors from The Catholic Messenger had been expecting the children to say that we were wearing the same T-shirts!

It would be a morning of delightful surprises for me, The Catholic Messenger’s editor; Anne Marie Amacher, assistant editor and Scott County reporter; and Celine Klosterman, regional reporter and Web site manager. We were among hundreds of individuals participating Sept. 2 in the United Way of the Quad Cities Area Day of Caring at various businesses and agencies. The other two staffers on our team, Nancy Hamerlinck, our circulation and accounting manager, and Kathy Weiss, our advertising and marketing manager, stayed at the office to hold down the fort while we were away.

Our staff has participated previously in The Day of Caring, a community-wide day of hands-on volunteering in which United Way connects volunteers with non-profit organizations to work on projects that would otherwise not be completed. Since we have enjoyed volunteering with children in the past, we chose Positive Parenting at Trinity (Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Davenport) as our volunteer assignment for the morning.

The assignment description said something about sharing memories with the children, but I think the intention was to make memories with them — which we did.

During introductions, several of the children gave us the gift of their drawings. One little girl, with great seriousness, described her illustration to me: “This is the grass and this is a human person.”

Following an energetic good-morning song and calendar activities, all of the daycare’s children — ages 18 months to preschoolers — gathered to listen to one of the visitors play a musical instrument. That would be me, on the accordion.

The children were awestruck as I lifted a full-size accordion out of an old case. It had been months since I’d played, other than a quick practice the night before. But the kids definitely enjoyed the lively, peppy music that even a poor amateur like me can crank out of an accordion!

Afterward, I invited the children to come up and press the instrument’s buttons and keys. They approached solemnly, mostly wanting to press in one of the buttons. What a joy to see young children revel in wonder at something new to their experience of life.

I put the accordion away and then we accompanied the staff and the children to the playground outside. Michelle wanted to give us a tour of the daycare, which is located in Trinity Cathedral’s nicely finished basement. So we took a short break away to learn what the daycare has to offer children from a variety of walks of life. We were impressed at the way in which the program strives to instill a love for learning, well-being, respect and fun.

We joined the children back on the playground, and they wore us out. It’s been a long time since my youngest was a preschooler. But it’s fun to be reminded once again about the joy of running across a yard, pulling a wagon and reading stories in a playhouse.

The morning passed so swiftly and soon we were saying goodbye. One of the children asked Michelle, “Can we keep them?”

A United Way survey asked volunteers to assess their experience; one question focused on the benefit for the individuals who were served. In my opinion, the benefit was mutual. God created human beings to be companions on the journey. Positive Parenting at Trinity was one stop on the journey that has enriched my life, and hopefully the lives of the children I spent a morning with.

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