Tuesday, September 16, 2008

High School Service

Throughout high school I was never very involved with community service, nor was I concerned with the challenges that other people faced each day. In senior year though, through much encouragement of my parents, I decided to start volunteering my time on weekends. The first thing I did was a weekend league for boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 10 to play lacrosse. Most of the kids had never played before and so they didn’t have any equipment to use, and much of what was given to the coaches was barely serviceable. The good news was that I had plenty of pads that I had grown out of over the years, and combined with the amount of good equipment the entire team that I work with had quality protective gear.

I never thought much about the pads I gave away, and they were never of any use to me either. But when I saw how excited the boys were to get this semi-used stuff, it made me feel good that I could help to make them happy and eager to play this new sport. That was the first time I had ever felt really good about myself and my actions; sure performing well in school was nice, and excelling athletically was good too, but it was making a difference in the lives of these children that I felt the most accomplished. And I wanted to feel that more often. So Saturdays became my favorite day of the week. The 8am wakeup was at least a little more bearable knowing that I was going to get to see all of my buddies. I made bonds with these little kids I didn’t have with some of my close friends. It was becoming an important part of what I did with my time.

As the weeks flew past, a few new kids would show up every now and then. It was easy to see that it was difficult for them, having very little lacrosse skills, and it made it that much harder for them to be accepted by the other players. The coach did not really seem to address this, which was surprising because he had been a wonderful coach up to this point, not only giving lessons in the game at hand, but also in sportsmanship and handling disappointment. I noticed what was happening though and decided I had a responsibility to make these newer kids feel more at home in the group. One child in particular was very shy and quite uncoordinated, so he was the most ignored by the larger number of kids. So I decided to make a point of talking to him during water breaks, which were frequent in order to try to keep their attention for any period of time, and sure enough other kids began to join in on our conversations. At first when the other kids would come over, this one boy would kind of clam up and stop talking, but as I asked him questions directly he began to talk to the other kids too, and soon it was like he was on the team the whole season.

It was amazing for me to see what giving back was really all about; to be privileged and amazingly fortunate like I am, it is truly a responsibility to help those who aren’t given the same advantages you may have. These kids I helped and learned from over the course of the year were not able to afford their own equipment and my never have been able to enjoy a great game were it not for all of the people who donated their expendable possessions. It is that kind of thinking of other people that really helps the less fortunate.

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