This is probably the most important question that I continue to ask myself…it’s a question that has to be asked with a series of “Why’s.”
Each one peeling back a layer of a deeper meaning. It’s a question that I toiled with for months. It wasn’t until a few days ago, when I sat discussing character development and social and emotional learning, that a colleague of mine, Mary Jo Ginty, made a poignant statement. She said, “Kickball isn’t just kickball.”
That statement struck me to my core and immediately took me back to 2009, when a staff member, Mr. Joey Alvarado, shared this story at a staff training: Joseph, a student with special needs, was introduced to our program by the school counselor and though our staff didn’t have all of the training or the capacity to provide a one-to-one, Joseph was welcomed into the program.
At first the staff struggled with meeting the needs of Joseph, but soon everyone found their groove.
Then, on a freestyle Friday, a staff vs. students kickball game changed everything. With a tied score and the game on the line, Joseph approached the plate. Mind you as our staff member, Joey, was sharing this story, he was visible shaking and clenching the podium to help him keep his composure. The entire organization was silent with anticipation. As the ball rolled towards Joseph, he kicked the game winning home run. Everyone went bananas!
As he circled the bases, all of the students were chanting his name, “Joseph! Joseph! Joseph!” And when the excited Joseph crossed home plate, he ran to our staff, Joey, and exclaimed, “Did you hear that Mr. Joey? Did you hear that?” Did you hear everyone yelling my name!?!?” At the close of program, when Joseph’s father came to pick him up that was all he spoke about…his home run in kickball, winning the game, his name being chanted by all our students, feeling important. He told his father as they drove home, “This is the best day in my life.”
That very next day, Joseph and his family were in a fatal car accident.
The only survivor was Joseph’s father. When our staff went to the funeral to give their condolences, Joseph’s father shared with the staff, “You know, all Joseph spoke about was you guys and the program…and that Friday night he was so excited and would not go to sleep. I’m glad that one of his last experiences was the one he had with you and the program. Thank you.”
So yes Mary Jo, kickball isn’t just kickball. Kickball was a life changing experience. Kickball was an activity where a village came together to initiate and validate one of our own. Kickball is a reminder of why I do what I do and to never stop believing that miracle workers come dressed in staff shirts and running shoes ready to play kickball.
For breakfast I had a Ginger and Greens smoothie.
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