On any given night at Shelby Park Community Center one will see children coming and leaving. There will be three year-olds and 14 year-olds. There will be a game of foursquare in progress, kids asking about the dinner menu, and another group participating in rowdy game of UNO. And it’s loud. Always.
When first-time volunteers are asked about their thoughts on their Shelby Park adventure, they often express that the experience is overwhelming. They’re not sure of how to interact with the kids or if the kids are interested interacting with them. Some are unsure if the time spent with the kids is having a positive impact.
While I won’t pretend that the chaos is by design, I will profess that it is constructive. In this chaos is where I was able to tell a kid how awesome his Harlem Shake was and see his eyes light up in pride. In this chaos was where Emily heard a middle-schooler share his excitement over his culinary skills and his ability to make tasty meals for his three year-old sister.
Many people can’t commit to coming to Shelby Park on a regular basis and wonder if their infrequent visits are important. But the kids remember and ask about all the volunteers. Some of the kids project a tough facade, but all of the kids who show up on Highland’s nights do so of their own free will. The kids, like everyone else, just want to feel cared for. Knowing that someone from the other end of town journeyed to the Community Center for no other reason than to hear their story has a bigger impact than one might think.
The Shelby Park team hopes that you feel led to live in the chaos, be a little uncomfortable, and share your love and presence with the kids in Shelby Park.
~ Allison Keenan, Chair, Community Missions Ministry Group