Her heart gives back
I will never forget the phone call I received in the summer of 2008 from a complete stranger. The lead off question was one that made my heart skip a beat. Are you the mom of Erin Stevens? After acknowledging I was indeed that momma, the caller went on to tell the tale of something that happened at a benefit for a husband and daddy who lost his battle with depression. The caller was one of those in charge of the benefit for her friend, the wife and momma left behind. I was unable to attend the benefit because I was traveling to yet another hospital visit with our son; so I didn’t see any of what occurred. At some point in the evening the workers noticed that their children – all of them – were missing. One of the moms went out to do a cursory search and didn’t have to go very far to discover that all of the children were playing games, organized and led by this little girl she didn’t know, whom she described as the Pint-sized Pied Piper of Children. She went back and told the other parents what she had seen. Another parent, now curious, had to go see for herself. When she returned, she told the others – don’t you know who that little girl is? Most did not. The one who did explained – that is Erin Stevens. You know, she and her brothers were in the school bus crash. One brother died and her other brother has been in and out of the hospital. I think she was hurt too.
By this point in the conversation, I was silently sobbing, hanging on every word. The caller too became choked up and said, I want you to know that you have raised an amazing daughter. In the midst of what I can only imagine has been your family’s worst nightmare, your little girl saw a need and stepped in to help. She went on to say that our Sister made sure that everyone was included, felt special, and most importantly was loved while their parents were occupied serving others. When I hung up the phone, I simply sat and cried. God’s light shines brightest in the darkest moments of life. I eventually composed myself long enough to ask Erin if anyone had asked her to do this, and in her sweet little 9-year-old voice she replied, No, but someone needed to do it. I was happy to help because lots of people have helped us.
Trauma changes everything about life, including your DNA. I wish that I could go back in time and insulate my children from the horrors of life, but if I did, I would miss out on seeing how they have risen above those dark moments to see what is really important in life. One of those things would be Sister’s heart driven to pay-it-forward, because like me she knows that we can never repay all the kindnesses lavished on our family.
From that moment at the ballpark years ago until today, she has actively given back to others. In the 5th grade, she organized a couple classmates and together they secured donations and assembled almost 200 care kits for Haitian refugees. Her volunteerism and community minded service has given her purpose and helped her define who she wants to be in this world. She has learned she definitely wants to be a teacher, using her life experiences to help children, but especially those who might struggle in life and in the classroom. The thing that amazes me and makes me so proud is that she doesn’t volunteer to draw attention to herself or because it is mandated by any group, organization or school.
She gives back because she cares. It is really that simple.
Most who know her know her for her laugh, her involvement in athletics, her amazing skills as a babysitter and nanny, and perhaps if they read the right newspaper her commitment to academics. But here is a momma’s chance to do a little bragging. Even despite having nine surgeries in the last four years, she has maintained honor roll status while taking both high school and college courses, is a triple sport athlete, maintains three jobs, and has volunteered over 200 hours each year of high school. Despite the demands of being a student and an athlete, when she walks across the stage at graduation, she will have given back 1000 hours of service to the local communities.
I was beyond thrilled to hear that we weren’t the only ones impressed by this dedication to service. I recently received an email from our local Coca-Cola Bottling Company saying that Erin had been chosen as one of the finalists for the 2nd Annual Powerade Athletes of The Year Award because of her commitment to academic excellence and community outreach. Melt this momma’s heart!
If selected, she will earn a $1000 scholarship which will help her continue chasing her dreams of becoming an elementary and special education teacher.
George Washington Carver once said, “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.” I am completely biased, but I think she has a good head start on each of those. No matter where life takes her, I know that there will be all kinds of hearts touched by her willingness to love.
And isn’t that what life is all about, being remembered for the ways you have loved others?
Please consider voting daily for our Sister (Erin Stevens) in the Powerade Athlete of the Year Scholarship contest. http://vikingcocacola.com/community/powerade-athletes-voting
Here are just a few of the moments that I have captured of her out and about in the community.
Every time she visits the nursing home, especially the Alzheimer’s wing, she has a great rapport with the residents. For his and his family’s privacy and dignity, we have covered his face. She loves when her friend offers to give her a ride to New Ulm. Last time, she told him that they better hit the show while they were there too!
This was her last season coaching with the Special Olympics basketball teams before heading to North Dakota to attend college next year. Her team brought home silver medals.
On her college signing day, she was surprised by the 3’s Preschool class where she has been a volunteer for two years! They arrived with a banner they created and said they couldn’t miss her BIG day because they are her BIGGEST fans!