Every day is a new adventure with my kids. I call them my kids because as much as they drive me nuts, and sometimes I genuinely think they’re trying to kill me, I love them to bits. From 3:15pm to 6pm every Monday through Thursday, there are 15 kids attending The Gallery after school program that I have been running since I got here in late August. We have been through a lot. The program changed churches over the summer, it combined with the after school program at the new church, and I am the new director. We have kids returning from last year and new kids that have never attended before. Transition is hard for everyone and this was no exception.
Despite having an outline for what we were supposed to do, things were chaotic and to make matters worse, the kids weren’t getting along. There was a great divide between the kids from Oklahoma City schools and Putnam City schools. They called each other awful names, blamed each other for things they had done, refused to sit together. Finally, I had had enough. We were a month into the program and if anything, things were getting worse. They sat at different tables and never spoke to one another unless they were playing soccer or they wanted to be mean to each other. I gave them an ultimatum. They had two days to start sitting next to each other at snack time or I would start assigning seats. The first day they still sat apart and when snack was over, I reminded them of what I said. The second day, with the threat of assigned seats hanging over their heads, a few of the Oklahoma City kids went to sit at the table with some of the Putnam City kids. By the end of that first day of combined groups, two of them were inseparable. Two months later, all the kids have become friends and miss each other when someone doesn’t show up. They help each other with homework and invite one another to play together outside. Once they let go of the assumptions they had of one another and got to know each other, friendships bloomed. What a beautiful thing to witness and what an example for the rest of us!
We have all been victims of assumption, of stereotype, of judging the book by its cover. We know how painful and detrimental it can be to be written off before anything even happens. Isn’t it time we stop letting those things get in the way of great potential? How is that sharing the love of Christ with everyone? This holiday season, I challenge you to let go of your assumptions and spread God’s love to everyone you meet. Love is immeasurable because there is no limit to the amount of people with which you can share it.
The Gallery After School Program, Oklahoma City, OK
US-2 Global Mission Fellow, 2015-2017