In about a month or so, many adults – dads, moms and other “like persons” will be offered the opportunity to be involved in the lives of children. Dads will be asked to join dads groups at their kids’ school. Moms and dads will be invited to join the local parent teacher organization. Let Me Run and similar programs will recruit leaders for their after school programs. Churches will solicit Sunday school teachers. Recreational leagues will recruit for soccer coaches. Principals will reveal the lists of volunteer needs in their schools. Those lists of places to volunteer and impact children will be long and wide ranging.
The questions for all of us will be: Could I? Should I? Will I? Who will step up and fill those slots on the sign-up sheet? Many will see the opportunities, then wonder…. Do they have the time? Can they make the commitment? Do they have the skills required? What will they do if they fail? Too often adults answer those questions in the negative. Lacking confidence or courage, they do not engage.
School Principals know they need the help of the community. They know that volunteers will make a difference. Kids need our help. They need us to step forward. We can be part of their success. We can make a difference just by our presence. Do you want to wake up one day and hear a voice reminiscent of Dr. Seuss saying “Did you show up when you could? Did you show up when you should? Were you present here or there? Did the children know you care? Without hesitation, can we let our faith be larger than our fears? Can we find the time to step forward and volunteer?
Give It a Try
I began my coaching “career” leading a U 12 boys soccer team. I had never played the game in an organized league. My initial knowledge can be summed up best in these two strategic concepts: Kick the ball in their goal. Don’t let them kick it in ours. And with that in my backpack, I began thirteen wonderful years of leading players.
I am proud to say that over the years my knowledge of the game and my skill in coaching improved. Our teams won their share of games. In the process, the kids [and I] learned how to play the game as well as lessons about hard work, practice, team work, faith and values. But that only happened because someone volunteered to “be there”
Becoming a Better Person
I hasten to say that in those years leading kids, I learned more and grew more as a person than any of the kids who ever played for me. I am a better dad and a better person because I chose to volunteer and engage with those 500 plus players. That was reason enough for me to step forward.
Leading children requires one to focus on what the children need. By default, when you become a coach, you become a role model. They watch for your lead. They see what you do and listen to what you say. So, each practice and each game, you must be prepared to be your best. I had to learn new skills and strategies that I could teach the players. I had to hold myself to high standards of sportsmanship and respect for others. For me, each week in a faith-based league, I had to prepare and present a devotional. It was necessary for me to read scripture, gather my thoughts and anticipate the questions of inquisitive youngsters. Those requirements alone caused me to “get better” every week. It was like graduate school on how to be a better adult. Sometimes it was challenging, but I got it done. Others can do it, too. I like people to think, “if Coach Jeff can do it, it can’t be that hard”.
Better with your Presence
When you think about the children. Those needing a reading buddy. Those wanting a place to go after school. Those needing someone to talk to at lunch. Those looking for that smiling face in the morning carpool line. No matter your skill or experience, won’t those kids be better off if you are present than if they go it alone? Isn’t that an easy answer?
Over the Rainbow
Last week I watched The Wizard of Oz for what seemed like the thousandth time. This time I listened intently to the words of “Over the Rainbow.”
Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true
Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me
Somewhere over the rainbow
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh, why can’t I?
I wondered how many children are dreaming of flying to that place where dreams really do come true; and wondering “why can’t I?” Maybe you could be the person who helps them find their way. The band America helped us understand when they sang, “Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man that he didn’t already have.”
Kids already have the ability to learn. To read. To play. To sing. Like the tin man they have hearts. Like the lion they have courage and like the scarecrow they have brains. Often, they just need someone to lead them down the road and help them believe. Dorothy summoned her courage and walked with them. So can we. Look around. We aren’t in Kansas anymore. We need to help the children find their way home.