How could I do outreach when I felt sad, miserable and had a totally bad attitude? The whole point of outreach is to somehow reach beyond oneself and show to show these children God’s love. There is a saying that says; “Children are like sponges, they absorb everything right out of you.” I knew from experience, especially with these children, just how true this saying was. These children that lived there were mostly African refugees. I knew these kids probably needed the love and attention more than anyone else I knew. Yet I felt like my spirit was already sucked dry and empty. It seemed like there wasn’t anything even left within me for these children to absorb.
“Well here goes nothing,” I grumbled to myself as we pulled into the parking lot. I grabbed my cookies, slammed the door and headed over to the playground. There were a lot of kids out this evening. There were some older guys playing basketball, little kids swinging, girls doing flips on gym bars, a soccer ball being kicked around, the famous dirty-sock game, (Which is some sort of version of monkey-in-the-middle, a game they used to play in Africa.), wild boys climbing to the top of the swing set instead of actually swinging, kids fighting, cussing, yelling, crying, lauging and of course little 3 and 4 year-olds running around with no adult supervision. It was total pandemonium and chaos, but nothing unusual, just a normal, typical day at Paradise Shadows.
No one seemed to notice me as I walked by, sitting on top of one of the picnic tables, I continued sulking. I should have just stayed home. I was about to tell my brother we should leave when I heard my name being called.
“Mary! Mary!” I looked over and saw Manific, a 5-year-old girl. She climbed up on to the table with me, giving me hug then sitting in my lap. As we sat together, something in my heart began to warm up. One by one the kids began to notice me, giving me hugs and fighting to sit in my lap, making me smile.
“Mary! Mary!” Another voice called out, “did you bring the pink cookies?” It was Festina, a 14-year-old girl that was seriously the biggest fan of my pink cookies.
“Oh yeah,” I said pulling out the cookies, “I almost forgot about these.”
“Yes!” Squealed Festena as I began passing out the cookies. “These are my favorite, I love them!”
“Yeah I know,” I said laughing as I handed her a cookie.
“Mmmm!” she said as she took a bite, totally exaggerating the deliciousness of the cookie.
Totally energized, I began to push some of the smaller kids on the swings. Took turns spinning around in circles until we were too dizzy to walk straight and sang everyone’s all around favorite church song; I got the Holy Ghost, which was screamed at the top of our lungs, totally off key.
After a while I saw Esther, a 12-year-old girl that lived with me for a while.
“Esther! I haven’t seen you in FOREVER!” I exclaimed, squeezing her with a big bear hug. “Come on,” I said. “Lets go bring some cookies to Martina.”
As we walked over to Martina’s, I stopped and said hi to different people offering them pink cookies. By the time we got back to the playground the cookies were gone and it was time to go home. I got lots of hugs as I said goodbye and got in our van. Even as we pulled away, there were kids screaming and chasing the van. Driving home I felt so happy. I couldn’t help but smile. Everything seemed better, brighter, and cheerier. I didn’t feel tired anymore and I wasn’t even mad at my sister. Instead of feeling empty, I felt full and overflowing with happiness. I was surprised I felt this way. What was it that had happened with the kids that changed my whole perspective?
I had thought spending time with them would only make me feel worse, instead the opposite had happened. A scripture went through my mind “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison and ye came unto me (Matthew 25:35-36) I realized that when I reached out to those children, I was in a way reaching out to God.
When I passed out cookies, pushed children on the swings or held them in my lap, I was doing it unto The Lord. The little hand holding my big hand wasn’t just any hand, but God’s hand. While I was being Jesus to them, they were being Jesus to me. …Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25:40).