There but for the Grace go I...
In the past, GBVB would always end the school year with a team cookout. It was a nice way for the team to get together one last time before finals and before everyone went their separate ways for the summer . But three years ago, Assistant Coach Joseph Goodson decided to make our end-of-year gathering much more meaningful. After doing some research, he found the Freedom House, a residence for homeless families. It is less than a mile from campus, yet worlds apart from the lives we lead at UWGB. Last Thursday, we spent the afternoon with the families. It's the second year we have organized a Cinco De Mayo event for the residents at the Freedom House. You can see more photos and videos on our team Facebook page!
By Joseph Goodson
"There but for the Grace go I..."
These were the words that kept rolling through my mind, or perhaps "...went I..." as the case might have been many years ago. Last week, the team went to serve at a local shelter for homeless families of primarily women and children. This was our second year hosting a small Cinco de Mayo celebration - which by the way has absolutely nothing to do with Mexican Independence. In fact, the date is not even celebrated in Mexico! Something I was not aware of until a few days prior, but I digress...
Meat was cooked, beans were heated, water was boiled for rice, and kool-aid was mixed. The afternoon, however, was not going to be about the food -- it was going to be about the children -- the effect we had on them, and they on us.
As time drew closer to the first seating for dinner, the first few children appeared. Initially clinging close to momma's leg, then darting past the kitchen area. So became a game of hide and seek, between and around our players' legs. Before long, as dinner was served, we had little ones being held and hugged, tickled and fed. These little ones were sponges for attention, seemingly so lacking in their daily lives. Even the older children, hesitant at first, soon were grasping for hands to hold, and laughter to share.
After dinner we had our second annual piñata "game". Last year we some difficulties with our piñatas because of a few "overzealous" young boys swinging a large stick, combined with plaster that wasn't quite brittle. This year I opted for the newer, safer version of the classic piñata. Still filled with sweet treats, the "safety piñata" was supposed to work by the children pulling ribbons attached to a trap door at the bottom. When the lucky child pulled the right ribbon all the candy would cascade out, and the free-for-all would ensue -- in theory. Our piñata, however, did not operate exactly as advertised. When then the appropriate ribbon was pulled, nada! -- except laughter. However, with a gentile tug in the right place the candies did rain!
There are so many places in our lives that we don't realize things could have turned out very differently. Most of us have homes to go to, and people who love and care for us. As children we were protected and cherished, and because of this we possibly assumed -- and still assume -- that is what it means to be a child. Until you meet a Mykala, or 'Magnet' as I affectionately called her. Partly for the way she was clinging to all who would play with her, partly because I didn't quite understand her when she said 'Mykala'! Certainly, children everywhere love to play, and love to be loved on. Yet with Mykala, and her little sister who fell asleep in the arms of our players, there was something more. A longing to be held, a longing for undivided attention, even if just for a little while.
When the candy was separated into baggies (not without some anticipated drama of course), and it was time to go, there were a few tears. I think our players were touched deeper, and more profoundly than they had expected, although exactly as I had planned. My hope is that they were touched in a place that will lead them to step out on their own, because there are thousands of Mykalas out there waiting for laughter, for hugs, and for love.
"God Bless the child whose got his own..."