In just a few short days I will embark on another adventurous summer with YouthWorks. I’ve been revising some of last years material so that I am ready to go at the beginning of the summer, and I can’t help but reflect on last years highs and lows. How vividly I can remember Jesse wanting to pass out hand sanitizer every afternoon; Tyron pleading to play cat and mouse; throwing Celestine over my shoulder and asking everyone whether they had seen her; begging Patrick to cooperate and stop petting the stray cat; Lily chasing after her oblivious little sister Daisy; playing cards with Seriah; passing out backpacks to 91 ecstatic kids.
There are so many precious memories to be named, but my best memory might come out of my hardest experience. On the fifth day of Kids Club, a big fight broke out between several Native American kids and a group of hispanic kids. Generally speaking the groups didn’t get along to begin with and it is likely that any of their older siblings were in gangs. To make a long story short, I had to kick the instigating Native group out of the park and hold the hispanic group inside the park to keep them apart. The Native group wouldn’t leave so I had to call the police and ensure that they would be gone–otherwise I would have done nothing but stall a fight. They went home and nothing more came of the situation, though I did get shot with a firework that afternoon by the instigating group as I walked kids home.
That day was both exhausting and terrifying. Returning to Kids Club made me anxious as situations could easily spiral out of my control. But the next day passed with little fanfare as neither group returned. On Wednesday, two days after the fight, the hispanic group returned and approached me. They apologized for their behavior and said that if anyone said something mean to them, they would come to me instead of fighting. I thanked them, but only because that is all I knew to say. I was stunned. Were the things that I was trying to teach actually getting to these kids? Respect? Love? Compassion? Was I actually making a difference? I doubt that these kids ever accepted Christ, but they were beginning to see the big picture, and that was incredibly validating.
After that week, a few of the hispanic group stopped coming altogether, but I became good friends with those who stayed. The native group also returned, but I felt much more resistance from them. On several occasions they brought firecrackers and lighters and caused a commotion, but more often just didn’t listen to me. Towards the end of the summer though, something changed. One day Billy, the most troublesome child, came into the park and sat down at a picnic table near mine. I greeted him cheerfully as usual, and he responded with “What’s up Trevor.” Again, I was stunned. Maybe Billy was having a good day, maybe I just had a stroke of luck, but I had got to him. He acted happy to see me. No, it was no earth-shattering revelation, but in a culture of so much distrust it was phenomenal to gain any positive ground.
And so, I can’t help but wonder what memories I will make this summer, what difficulties I will face, what progress will be seen, and what I will relaying to you next summer in my memories. We’ll have to wait and see.