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Buddy Up!

Do you want to be a lunch buddy? I was asked that question last year and I remember my response. "A what? What's a lunch buddy?" I didn't have any idea what a lunch buddy was and I also didn't realize that it was an easy way to participate in our church's activity with Mountain View Elementary School.

Then came the Sunday where Mountain View volunteer opportunities were highlighted with a bulletin insert. I glanced down the list making little tick marks next to the ones that interested me; "lunch buddy" got a tic mark. Then I had a conversation at Mountain View that changed my whole perspective.

I was speaking with a staff member about the role each of my potential options played in the school and then I said the magic words, "What I want to do really is whatever role is the most needed here." This staff member stiffened as if she had just heard something shocking. Her eyes began to tear up and her voice cracked a bit with her next words. "If you want to do what is most needed you need to be a lunch buddy for a 4th grade boy. Positive male role models in the lives of these boys is our most desperate need." I was totally shocked. Of all the needs at Mountain View male lunch buddies was the greatest? I committed on the spot and received my lunch buddy a few weeks later - a 4th grade boy named Jabria.

I didn't know what to do or what to expect in this new relationship. I went through some training and I knew that Jabria, as all lunch buddies do, had volunteered for the program. I also knew the day was my choice and that it only took 30 minutes. 30 minutes a week to impact a lifeā€¦.I figured I could do that. I didn't realize the life most impacted would be my own.

We talked over our lunches each week. I had conversations with Jabria of course but also with his classmates who looked on and listened to what was being said. Jabria and his friends taught me a lot - about life through their eyes, about how they spend money and why, about their perspective on education, about why Lebron James was better than Michael Jordan, etc. I was able to offer other perspectives and even provided he and his friends with fresh pineapple, homemade cookies, and other seemingly "normal" things which were lifetime firsts for them. And, I was able to help them see why Michael Jordan has had more of an impact on basketball than has Lebron!

Looking back on my time as a lunch buddy, I believe God used it to soften my heart for those kids who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in tough situations. It has made me more sensitive in conversations, more understanding of some hard realities, more aware of needs, and more willing to be a part of helping. And finally, it has helped me recognize that kids are kids - whether they be at Mountain View or Lake Ridge. They are great kids with hopes and dreams who like to laugh, talk sports and, well, just be kids. I am looking forward to another year of just showing up and seeing what God does. It's time to Buddy Up!

Eric Myers

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