Fall Break, the Cubs, and Life Working with Children

This is one of the best moments of the year so far for me. And that has nothing to do with things that are happening to me as a YAV. I’m currently listening to a stream of the Cubs v. Dodgers NLCS Game 6 at Wrigley Field. I’ve been a Cubs fan for quite a few years now, not lifelong by any means, but long enough to have become a more die-hard fan than I would have thought back when I was a young kid experiencing my first Cubs game in Wrigley with my family. That day (an extra-innings win versus the Giants in a year after the Giants had won the World Series) cemented in my heart a love for the Cubs, for Wrigley Field, for the city of Chicago, and, more broadly, baseball. I love sports and there is something about the competition, the effort given, watching guys play and succeed at a game they’ve worked their entire lives to be great at…there is something about that that resonates with me on a deep, deep level. As I listen to the Cubs shake off their history, as I watch Cubs hype videos, as  I talk about what this means with my friends who also love the Cubs, my heart is strangely full. I love the game of baseball and the memories I have that are related to the Cubs are some of the dearest I have. Go Cubs Go!

So anyway, back to the year and things I’m experiencing firsthand. I have kind of slacked lately on recording my daily thoughts and feelings. Coming off the kids’ fall break last week (and thus not having to run the after school program) made me lazy. It was also a really quiet week last week. Not a whole lot happened and there wasn’t a whole lot that I felt I needed to record. But this week is a very different story. This week was awesome.

I said not a whole lot happened last week, and, because of the quiet on the child front, Cody and I were able to take some needed time to revamp parts of our program, inventory and sort donations we had received the week before, and, generally, catch our breaths from the whirlwind that had been the last few weeks. By and large, we got all these things accomplished. That was awesome for me as I’ve come to learn that I value accomplishing tasks and setting an agenda and getting those agenda things done. I also had the chance to work with Destinee on a lot of garden stuff. We planned the bed layouts for one of the gardens that is (very nominally) under my control and we worked on prepping the compost piles we are building at Las Abuelitas. Last Saturday I also had the opportunity to work with students from UA to plant the beds we had planned earlier in the week. What a success that was! I love being able to work in the gardens and working with the students (who know a lot more about gardening than I do) was an awesome experience for me. We got all three beds planted, spruced up our stock of wildflowers (for color and bee attraction), and, as I hinted above, I got to learn a lot about gardening and caring for plants. It was a wonderful week last week, but, like all good things, it had to come to an end.

Monday came and Cody and I rolled out our updated rules and discipline policy while also incorporating our more strict enforcement of said rules. Surprisingly, the kids responded really well to this and I noticed a marked improvement in their behavior. I think being able to make sure the kids actually knew the rules and understood that their actions in contrary to those rules would be punished helped a lot!

On the whole, Monday and Tuesday were unremarkable in terms of things happening. The kids were good and they were just two smooth days! But Wednesday was awesome. We had the public health students in to help us (as usual) so Cody and I were able to take a backseat and ensure that the kids paid attention to the students. Once the students were done with their activity, the program resumed its normal flow. I went outside with some of the older boys (as normally happens) and we played a game called Knockout on the basketball court for about an hour. The amazing part of this was that the kids played well together. The original three that I went out with respected each other and had a lot of fun. Then another two of the younger kids came out and the older kids let them play and the respect and fun continued. We shared, worked with each other to accommodate one of the boys who has a broken arm, followed the rules, and everyone enjoyed playing together! I think I can honestly say my heart has never been as full as it was today playing with those kids. They showed themselves what they can have fun while playing within the rules. They showed me that they CAN actually show the behaviors that we are trying to teach them. I haven’t been that happy during this year yet and I thank God for these glimpses into what is possible when working with kids. Those moments are what make this work worth it.

After the high that was Wednesday, Thursday was a day without the program. Cody was going out of town and Destinee needed some help with gardening stuff so we decided to cancel the program. I got to do some garden work and get my hands dirty. Even though it was a tiring day (we did some work at three different gardens over the course of four hours) it was a good end to the week for me.

Now I sit here in the middle of my weekend, trying to remind myself that I still have one more day off before I go back to work. I’m preparing myself for Sunday and going back to church. I’m preparing myself for a full week of the program again (followed by a week off for a retreat with the YAVs). And I’m preparing myself for watching the World Series with my Cubs playing for the championship. Literally haven’t had a chance to experience this in my entire life. I can’t believe this is happening. Excuse me for ending this on a slightly unorganized note, but I can’t contain or quantify my emotions right now. Go Cubs Go!

Thank you, Redeeming God, for kids, who provide small windows through which we can see your face, for good weeks, tired legs, and cooler weather. And thank you for the Chicago Cubs!

And so we go.

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