It is fun to take people to places you love and let them experience it.  It is even more fun if the person you are “playing tour guide” for is enthusiastic and gung-ho about all that you have them see and experience.  It is priceless if they are appreciative and lend a hand whenever needed.  That was our experience with Ryan from Florida this past weekend.  Here are a few highlights from the weekend (allowing for some anonymity on our part–I won’t be posting some of the best pictures because they show our faces):

*We camped!  Because our condo was rented out until Saturday morning we had to camp the first night.  This was extra fun for us because Ryan had never been camping before.  And?  He had never had s’mores before!  True story!  We enjoyed his enthusiasm about the campfire, the s’mores, and sleeping out under the stars.  In the morning we explored the area on foot. 

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Hiking back down after exploring the rocky bluffs above our campsite.

Hiking back down after exploring the rocky bluffs above our campsite.

*We went jeeping!  Ryan wanted to “experience” Moab, so he rented two jeeps for our group and Hub led us all through the areas called Elephant Hill, Devil’s Kitchen, SOB Hill, Silver stairs, Chessler Park and the Joint Trail.

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Huh took this picture and didn't realize the shutter wasn't open all the way.

Huh took this picture and didn't realize the shutter wasn't open all the way.

*We hiked, explored, and (the kids) climbed rocks! 

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Moab with Ryan 104

*We experienced slot canyons!

Squid climbing the walls of a slot canyon.

Squid climbing the walls of a slot canyon.

Hiking down into a slot canyon.

Hiking down into a slot canyon.

Shroom scaring Mack in a slot canyon.

Shroom scaring Mack in a slot canyon.

*We experienced Cairns!  Because many of the trails for hiking and jeeping are “off-road” you have to follow “cairns” (stacked rocks left by those who have gone before) so that you don’t get lost.  One slot canyon has become the “City of Cairns” because of all the cairns left behind.

City of Cairns

City of Cairns

The arch was one of our favorite cairns.

The arch was one of our favorite cairns.

The cairn Yawlin contributed to City of Cairns.

The cairn Yawlin contributed to City of Cairns.

*We went to church!  No pictures here.  It’s just simply what we do on Sundays.

*We explored Arches National Park!

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Moab with Ryan 230

Double Arch

Double Arch

Squid and Shroom climbing Double Arch.

Squid and Shroom climbing Double Arch.

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch

Slightly different view of Delicate Arch (That's me under it).

Slightly different view of Delicate Arch (That's me under it).

*And of course there was all sorts of other scenery!

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Moab with Ryan 112

Ryan and Squid stayed for one more night in our condo in Moab and booked an ATV tour.  The rest of us had to come home for school and work. 

The best part of the weekend was watching Ryan enjoy every part of the trip.  He was so enthusiastic, so appreciative, so positive about situations and people.  He is truly a joy to be around.  We count ourselves lucky that he chose to befriend us last year.

When my daughter, Huh, was in the 7th grade I remember her occasionally coming home from school and talking about a David that she’d met.  It was exciting for her to be meeting kids who didn’t go to the same elementary school that she had.  She, of course, met lots of  kids and settled into Jr. High life quite comfortably.

I kept hearing about the David who could sing.  Whenever there was a school talent show David was the favorite act.  Huh would come home from school and tell me what a great singer she thought he was and how the whole school cheered whenever he walked onto the stage.  I tried to keep all of her friends straight in my mind, but it was difficult because, at that time, she wasn’t the type to bring her friends home with her.  I just had to hear about them when I asked about her day after she got home from school.  

There were a few Davids and I kept getting them mixed up.  She would have to correct me, “No, Mom, David Z. is the one who we played basketball with after school, David M. is the one who always asks me to do the “Running Man” and David Archuleta is the one who can sing.”

“Oh.”

Silly me for never being able to keep them all straight.  When American Idol became a big hit Huh and a few other girls told David Archuleta that he should go on the show.  He always said no.  He was so shy.  At 9th grade graduation Huh pointed out her friends to me so that I could finally put a face to the names.  “That’s Austin.  That’s Whitney.  That’s David–the David who can sing.”

Huh didn’t realize at 9th grade graduation that that would be the last time she would be with her group of friends in a school setting.  I had remarried during the summer break before Huh’s 9th grade year and we had moved.  Both Huh and Mack had chosen to stay with their old school, but after one year of a twenty-five minute commute they both decided at the last minute to switch to the schools closer to us.  

Huh kept in touch with most of her friends from her former school, though that contact became less and less as she got involved at her new school and made new friends.  One day she came to me and said, “Mom, remember David Archuleta?  The David who can sing?  He’s on American Idol!”  We had watched the show a few times, but it wasn’t something we tried to watch regularly–until David Archuleta was on it.  Suddenly it became our new interest.  It makes it more interesting when you know one of the contestants.

Huh watched it in the beginning with us.  She even sent David a text that said, “I thought you said you would never go on that show.”

The answer back:  “Well…ya know…”

As time went on Huh became more and more disturbed by all of the attention David was receiving.  She even stopped watching the show with the rest of us, but would still ask us the results after each evening.  She kept worrying that David would change, that all of the attention would go to his head.  She remembered the shy kid who was nice.  She didn’t want him to become some stuck-up teen star. 

 We followed the show to the end and got caught up in the voting frenzy.  Everyone in our family called in votes.  I even phoned in one vote just so I could say that I had voted.  Then it was over.  David took second.  Our lives got back to normal, but David’s life was forever changed.  He was a star now with a huge contract and a very busy life.  He no longer attended the high school.  There was no more contact with David.

Fast forward to last Saturday night.  Huh was asked to her former High School’s Senior Ball by one of the kids she knew there.  Dances here are big deals.  The kids do a “day” activity as part of their date before getting ready for dinner and the dance in the evening.   The “day” activity for Huh’s group consisted of meeting at a church (to use the gym inside) for various games.  It turns out that David Archuleta was in town and had asked a date to Senior Ball and was a part of the group.

David arrived a little later than everyone else and was greeting those in the group that he knew.  Huh stood quietly waiting for him to notice her so that she could greet him too.  She wasn’t sure he would recognize her because she has changed her hair style since switching schools.  He glanced at her and then continued greeting others without saying anything to her.  She waited until he was finished then punched him in the arm and said, “Fine, don’t talk to me, jerk!”

David looked at her, then his eyes got big and he said, “Oh. My. Gosh.  Huh!  C’mere!”  And he pulled her into a big hug.

After the hug Huh decided to be accusatory, “Thanks for disappearing on me!”

“Me disappearing?  You’re the one who disappeared!  All of a sudden you moved and everybody was sad.”

The group had a good time playing the games together–basketball, dodge ball, Apples to Apples, and musical chairs.  David was, of course, in charge of the music for musical chairs.  And when they played dodge ball, if David got someone out he would sing, “I got you out,” instead of just saying it.  David was unable to attend the dinner with the group but he joined them again at the dance.  Because of his contract he couldn’t be in the group picture with them.  Huh is unsure if he was even able to have a picture taken with his date.

When Huh was recounting her date to me later I asked her if David had changed.

“Well, he’s trendier now.  He dresses trendier.”

“But, I mean, how is his personality?  Has he changed in that area?”

“No.  He’s still nice.”  She reported that he is still pretty shy too.  When the DJ at the dance played his song “Crush” everyone turned to look at David but couldn’t find him because he’d disappeared.  He was uncomfortable having people stare at him.

Huh is pretty certain there will continue to be no contact from David, he is living his dream right now.  But she is content that, at least for now, he hasn’t changed.  He hasn’t let all of the attention go to his head.  He is still just David.

I have to admit, I was skeptical at first.  When my daughter told me the plan that she and her friends had hatched, my natural inclination was to protect her.  After all, I’ve been “burned” plenty of times in my life.  I know what it’s like to be hurt and I like to think I can spot a scam and manipulation from a mile away.

The history:

My daughter, Mack, really struggled for the first few months at her new school.  Changing schools while a teenager can be devastating.  She felt alone and friendless, hated the teachers, and had no interest in excelling at anything.  She stuck it out (she had no choice) and began to make friends.  Once friends were in place, her attitude about school changed.  Her confidence returned.  She began to like the teachers and once again get good grades.  Seventy-four kids showed up to her birthday party.  (I had given permission for twenty).  On a social level things are going well for Mack.

Enter Hannah.  (To protect privacy, all names in this post have been changed).

I first became aware of Hannah when Mack mentioned a girl at school who always seemed sad.  She reported that the girl talked suicide and that she was worried about her.  The girl didn’t have many friends.  In fact, most of the kids at school considered her strange.  We didn’t know the girl’s family so I advised Mack to tell the school counselor about Hannah’s comments and encouraged her to be her friend.  I didn’t hear much more about Hannah except for the occasional report that she still seemed sad.

Then last week Mack announced that she and three of her friends, Nikki, Lisa, and Becca, had decided to take Hannah shopping at the mall.  They felt that a few new clothes might cheer Hannah up.  Hannah had mentioned that her mother couldn’t afford to buy her new clothes and so she always wore hand-me-downs.  Each of the girls planned to donate her own money to the shopping trip.

I was worried.  I didn’t know Hannah or her history.  What if it was all an act?  Fueling my skepticism were recent news reports about panhandling in our area by teenagers who claim to be homeless but really aren’t.  Many people have bought into their sob story and have given them money.  Mack has to earn the money she receives by babysitting and doing extra chores, she doesn’t have an endless supply of the green stuff.  Was she about to throw her hard earned cash away on a lie?  Manipulation?  A scam? 

I know my daughter’s heart.  She genuinely cares about other people.  In grade school she stood up repeatedly for an autistic boy who was the butt of many cruel jokes.  Because Mack knows what it feels like to be alone and without friends, she has empathy for anyone in the same situation.  She truly seemed concerned for Hannah.

Still, the mother instinct to protect was in place.  “How do you know she can’t afford new clothes?”

For Mack the issue wasn’t the clothes or the money.  “Mom, she is so excited that we are doing this.  She even put on her MySpace page that some friends are taking her shopping.  Some of the kids at school are teasing us for doing this.  They think Hannah is weird.  But we don’t care.  We are going to do it anyway.”  The issue for Mack was that someone desperately needed some friends.

On Saturday the girls all met at Lisa’s house then walked together to Hannah’s house.  Lisa’s mom provided the transportation to the mall.  While at the mall they decided to let Hannah have a mini makeover.  In order for the makeover to be “free” they had to make a purchase.  Mack bought Hannah some eye shadow.  Then they visited some of their favorite stores.  Nikki and Becca pooled money in one store for a new outfit for Hannah, and then Mack and Lisa did the same in another store.

Mack was excited when she returned home from the outing.  “Hannah was sooooo happy!  She kept thanking us over and over.”

Hannah wore the new clothes to school on Monday and Tuesday.  Mack says that whenever Hannah sees any of the girls in the hall she runs up and gives them a hug and claims they are her new best friends.  I asked Mack if the other kids at school were still teasing and making fun of Mack and the others for taking Hannah shopping.  Mack says she hasn’t heard any negative comments.  She also says that she feels happier inside after having served Hannah.

I am so proud of my daughter and her friends and I am glad I didn’t stand in their way.  A new friend has been made, compassion has been developed, and a girl has been cheered.  The girls exhibited courage by not backing down to peer pressure to forget serving Hannah.  Not only was a good example set for the kids at school, a good example was set for me. 

The lessons I learned:  Don’t judge.  Serve anyway.  And don’t stand in the way of your kids if they are showing courage and taking the initiative to show compassion and empathy to someone else.

Lessons learned.  Lessons lived.