There’s a small group of high school students I know who spend one Saturday each month playing with little kids at a shelter. That’s it — all they do is play. The children at the shelter are there “temporarily.” They’ve been put in the shelter by the courts because of trouble their parents and/or guardians are in. The hope is that the children will be taken in by other relatives or by foster parents within a short amount of time.
Sammy is six years only and has been at the shelter “temporarily” for several months now. If he gets a pass to visit relatives, he returns to the shelter angry and combative. Like all the children at the shelter, Sammy is there at the worst time of his life — having suffered violence and abuse and then thrown into a shelter where his best hope is for some stranger to take him in. So how do these high school kids help Sammy? They play games with him. “Don’t pick me! Don’t pick me!” Sammy shouts in a game of Duck-Duck-Goose. But everyone knows that Sammy wants to picked first in this game, because the game of life has left him on the sidelines.
I’m so impressed by these teenagers who give up time to help others. And they don’t do it for pay or praise. On the contrary, it costs them sleep, time, and even a loss of income for some. And not every time of play is fun, either. Sometimes the children at the shelter are loud, and angry, and fighting. If kids start to fight, the teens try to distract them. “Who wants to play soccer?” the teenagers ask in response.
These high school students are drawn to helping children because they believe that serving others isn’t just an event; it’s something that should become a lifestyle. They are drawn to little children because Jesus is drawn to the children. I used to imagine that when Jesus told the disciples to bring the children to Him it was for a quick blessing and photo op. But I bet Jesus took time and played with the kids. Why does play work? Because play is the love language of children and time spent together is the love language of God.
The teenagers could easily burn out or quit if they were just doing this for a “project.” Likewise, the employees at the shelter would quit if it was only a job. Without God, a compassion for others or a desire for justice will eventually become corrupt or burn out. But a desire to do right and love mercy because we first love God is unstoppable. Oswald Chambers said, “If we are devoted to the cause of humanity, we shall soon be broken-hearted; but if our motive is love to God, nothing can hinder us from serving our fellow men.” Love God first. Then, find a child and play awhile.
Look for my blog on Tuesdays and Fridays. You can find it on facebook, Twitter @croso1, at crosoblog.com or have a copy sent directly to your email.
Calvin G. Roso © February 2014