It's 4:35 on a Tuesday afternoon. I am finally, in the car outside my house, ready to go to the boys and girls club for soccer practice. Shoot, but I forgot to fill the water bottles up. Time to turn the car back off so I can take my keys to open the front door and make it to the kitchen sink.
We are 4 weeks into the season, my volunteer coaches don't really need me at practice anymore, but I like to be present. This day felt different though. I wanted to serve, without stepping on my volunteers toes!
I'll admit to you, that I am usually so wrapped up in whatever strategy I have to grow and improve the soccer league that I have a hard time just taking a mental break to engage the kids we are serving for more than a few minutes.
However, I required myself to be different today by sitting to chat with a few of them. So I walked into the club and sat down at a table with 2 girls playing checkers. Deandre later challenged me to a game. He was actually pretty good, though I let him win. Hehe. As I am walking out, I decided to stop by the program director, Ms. Patrice's office to chat. She begins asking me about soccer and during that time a little sweet munchkin walks in with her head held low. I couldn't help but ask...
Me: What is your name?
Me: That's a pretty name. My name is Adrienne, nice to meet you. How old are you?
S: 6... no, 7.
Patrice: She just turned 7 on Sunday.
Me: Well, Happy Birthday Sophia!
Silence... She actually looked 9 or 10 to me, but whatever.
Me: Do you play any sports?
Sophia shook her head no...
Me: Is it because you don't like them? Or you've never had the chance?
S: I never had a chance.
Me: Ms. Patrice, is there anything I can do to help with Sophia?
Patrice: I don't know. She was caught standing on the desk in the computer lab.
Is she serious? I got in trouble for that exact same thing, but I wasn't 7, I was in the 8th grade!
Patrice: Sophia, why did you stand on the computer desk?
Sophia shrugs her shoulders
Patrice: You should never do something without understanding why you are doing it. Did you know it was wrong?
Patrice: Then why did you do it?
Sophia shrugs her shoulders again
Patrice: Why was it wrong?
S: ...because I could have gotten hurt.
Patrice: What else?
S: ...because I could have hurt other people.
Patrice: I was just sitting here talking to Ms. Adrienne about the soccer teams and do you know you have to be disciplined in order to try-out?
Ms. Patrice carried on with her mission to help Sophia fully understand the seriousness of her misconduct. In the meantime, I was having flashbacks of the exact conversation Ms. Woodruff had with me in 8th grade.
Patrice: Sophia, I want you to sit here until the end of this period, then I want you to apologize to Ms. Simpson and help her clean the table tops before you leave.
S: Yes, ma'am. as wipes the tears from her eyes.
I watched little Sophia and couldn't imagine her doing something out of rebellion. After all, she wasn't yet two days past seven years old and seemed to be so respectful to Ms. Patrice. I just wanted to wrap her up in my arms and tell her that God has a huge plan for her life.... but I didn't. Instead, I asked her for a hug on her way out and told her I would come check on her next Tuesday.
Ms. Patrice told me about her home life. She and her 8-year-old brother are cared for by two separate grandparents. She said Sophia has been acting up and is starting to get a bad reputation at school amongst her teachers. Her brother was left at the boys and girls club one night and Ms. Patrice couldn't get a hold of his grandfather so she had to call the cops. Though she has been serving on staff at this club for nine years she said she still cried all the way home that night. Especially, thinking about how little the boy reacted to his grandfather abandoning him for the night. She said, "I'm a grown woman, i'll be okay but I just can't imagine what HE felt like."
Me: Ms. Patrice, would it be okay if I came in to chat with Sophia once a week? I would really like to mentor her if you think that will help.
I can't help but think about intersections. If I had not been led to sit down and engage with the kids today, I would have not had the opportunity to sit in a very important meeting Sophia had with Ms. Patrice. My life would not have intersected at such a raw and vulnerable place for Sophia. Besides, she made such an impact on me.
I saw a quote the other day from an urban ministry in Atlanta stating, "We believe in building boys and girls, rather than repairing men and women." The next generation needs us. I am convinced that 10 minutes with a 7-year-old would not amount to hours, days, and years spent trying to re-direct an adult. We all deserve to feel valued, important, and loved.
Today, was a reminder of how I want to spend the rest of my life intersecting with people, young and old, in vulnerable places to infuse hope through Jesus Christ.
* Fellowship of Christian Athletes works hard to protect the privacy of the children we help. As such, names and images have been changed in this story. Thank you for understanding.
FCA Urban Soccer Director