One day last week, the room where my Care Club after school program meets was not available. My roommates and I decided to invite our kids to our apartment for a makeshift program day. On that rainy day, we served hot chocolate and one of our new volunteers brought a snack for everyone. Kids did homework, played games, and chatted with our Mission Care Residents and volunteers. Towards the end of our time together, I took in everything happening in our small apartment, and I realized this was one of those moments I wanted to hold in a time capsule to cherish.
I observed a middle school boy and girl who I have known since they were in elementary school. They are now at a stage where they are equally interested in talking as they are in playing games. They’re also beginning to find their co-ed friendship interesting in new ways, and their laughter and teasing filled the living room.
I saw two boys who are cousins, one who has been part of Care Club for years, and one who recently moved to our apartment complex and was brought to Care Club by his cousin. My roommates and I have witnessed the boy who has been with us for years change and mature this year as he strives to set an example for his cousin and look out for him. His cousin has only been at program a few months, but we are beginning to see some positive changes in his behavior as well. For both boys, while they were at our apartment, rather than putting energy into getting them to focus or listen quietly, we got to play with them and ask them fun questions like what they want to be when they grow up. Playing created space for conversations and positive memories.
I watched a little girl who came to us at the beginning of the year and hardly spoke at Care Club now clearly assert herself into conversations and chatter as she worked through her homework. When she finished her homework, another little girl kindly invited her to play. They have begun to interact at Care Club more the past few weeks and this day they taught each other new games. They laughed and chattered with delight as their budding friendship continued to form.
After the kids were walked to their apartments, two of our volunteers stayed to continue playing and talking. One of our neighbors heard the noise from our apartment and brought a mug of hot herbal tea over for me. She said it had helped her recover from a car accident and she hoped it would be good for my bones as well. I was touched by her thoughtfulness and intentionality.
There is something special about incarnational ministry, living where we serve and doing life in intentional community. This was a very special day of working from home. And yet, it is not an entirely uncommon scenario. At all our Care Fresno sites, our residents frequently open their homes to neighborhood youth and adults. They spend time with youth outside of formal program hours, build relationships, and do life together. Because of my experiences with Care Fresno, I want my home to be a place where friendships develop, playtime deepens relationships, new life stages are explored, and youth and adults alike feel safe and loved.