Have you ever sat back and thanked your lucky stars you live in a place as beautiful and opportunity-filled as the Lehigh Valley? Don’t roll your eyes. I’m serious.
Look around and you can easily identify verdant forests, rolling hills rich with farms and agriculture, and a mix of shopping, cultural and leisure opportunities.
Now imagine being born to concrete, traffic, sirens and occasional gunshots. For some, it's a dream to live in a place such as ours.
For the second summer in a row, our family hosted Robert, a 9-year-old boy from the Bronx. Robert didn’t get to choose where he was born and raised. He was welcomed into the world with the sounds of gunshots and sirens. Grass is a novelty to him.
Last year, Robert’s mom, Angela, discovered a program called the Fresh Air Fund, which provides the means for inner-city children ages 6 to 12 to escape to the country for a week or two each summer.
What moved me this visit was Robert’s giving heart.
Here’s a kid who has so much to offer. His laughter, smiles, good manners and generosity never cease to amaze me.
Despite growing up in challenging times, Robert’s mom has taught him solid morals and values. She wants the best for him regardless of their ongoing financial struggle.
Before boarding the bus to visit us, Robert’s mom gave him $5 in spending money. Rather than use it on something for himself, he saw a jewelry vendor at Port Authority and asked his mom if he could use his money to buy me a pair of turquoise-colored earrings.
When he arrived at the bus stop in Hellertown, Robert eagerly announced, “M.J.! I have a special present for you!” (M.J. stands for “Mama Jenae.”) He thrust the box toward me with a twinkle in his eye.
This moment … this tender moment of a boy with so little only thinking of me who has so much, still tugs at my heartstrings.
He was given his chance to buy candy, a small toy, or whatever he wanted with his money, but instead, he thought of me.
Robert has been a dream for our family. He has opened our eyes to how blessed we are to live here.
My hope for Robert is that we can continue to host him year after year, so that he can see the opportunities that abound for him.
Robert deserves a chance. Everyone deserves a chance.
Can we all make a difference in someone’s life? Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Interested in learning more about the Fresh Air Fund? Visit www.freshair.org or contact Jenae Holtzhafer, local Fresh Air Friendly Town Chairperson, for more details.
Editor's Note: Patch photographer/columnist Jenae Holtzhafer is a Fresh Air Fund host as well as the local Chairperson for the Fresh Air Fund.