Today Is

You know what today is?


clientuploads/our_impact/birthday_cupcake_orng_rgb_png.pngI’ve been working for the East Orange YMCA for almost 4 years now and I love every minute of it. The kids call me Mr. DJ. I’m really just a young man (turning 30 soon) who grew up in Brooklyn and later in Newark with a big heart that realizes God has blessed me with the YMCA in my life.

It was the beginning of the school year and the classroom was all set and ready for the kids to start the year. The walls were decorated with posters of the alphabet, numbers of 1-10, different shapes and the primary colors - all to help the kids with learning throughout the year. The teachers were excited with anticipation of what the school year will bring.

The first day arrived and all the students were walking through the doors with their parents and siblings, dropping the backpacks in their cubbies with their name on it, kissing their parents goodbye and proceeded to sit down on the carpet.

With the beginning of every new school year, I make sure to welcome all the students to the classroom and introduced myself as Mr. DJ. The children were excited to see their friends from last year, quickly picking up where they had left off, as if they spent all summer together.

I soon noticed there was a young preschooler named Xavier who was a little shy and liked to keep to himself. It wasn’t hard to notice that his shoes and pants were a little big and had a few stains. Maybe they were his older brother’s. After the first few weeks of school, it became apparent to me that his family was trying hard to make ends meet.

With all the children in class, I like to spend time just listening or playing games with them. I could tell that Xavier needed a little more listening and game playing than some of the other kids in class. He quickly created a bond with me. On occasions when he would get upset with another child in the class, I would  always have an ear to listen to his problem and help him work through it.

I knew his birthday was coming up and it’s common for parents to send in a snack for the class to share and celebrate. It was the day of Xavier’s birthday and he walked through the doors. He didn’t seem excited as I thought he would have been. I wondered if something was wrong. So I asked him how he was doing and then if he knew what was special about today? Xavier said he was fine and he didn’t know what was special about today. This made my heart sink. As simple as it may sound, cupcakes or cookies to share at school on your birthday is a big deal for a young child.

All the teachers knew it was Xavier’s birthday and he didn’t bring in a treat to share. Without hesitation, the teachers rallied together and decided that we would make this day special for him. After all, don’t we want all kids to feel special, feel loved and build confidence?

When it came time to pass out the cupcakes, Xavier had a smile on his face, a bounce in his step and a confidence level through the roof as he proceeded to say with every cupcake he handed out, “You know today is my birthday, right?”

Something so simple as a cupcake can have such a profound impact on a student and on staff. That one cupcake represents more than a treat. It provided staff an opportunity to collaborate together to show empathy and concern for others, and provided a child with confidence, compassion and love. We believe that the families we work with are an extension of the ones we have at home. So we try our best everyday to show our students and parents the same love and compassion that we give our own family.

The YMCA make strengthening our communities our cause. We help individuals and families everyday become stronger, more connected and secure. Help us make an impact in your community. Give to the Y.