We arrived at the Ryan Center on Monday afternoon around 4:10, as has become our custom recently. As we drove in, I noticed that there were some people playing in the baseball field. I didn't notice how many or how old they were. I just saw them for a moment while I quickly thought how nice it was to see people enjoying the beautiful weather after all the rain we had recently. I parked the van, we got out, and entered the building.
My children and I minister with several other people from our church to the city children who belong to an afterschool program in the Ryan Center. There are probably 200 children involved in the various activities there, but about 20 or so children from the ages of 7-12 years attend our CHOICE Kids Club every week. Some of the children attend weekly. Some we see from time to time while others may come once, just to see what it's all about.
On Monday, May 9, CHOICE was the same as any other week. We got into the gym where the kids played ball for a while and talked with the leaders. The mats came out and we gathered there to sing some Bible songs, listened to a lesson (this week's topic was "confidence"), then watched a skit pertaining to the topic discussed. During lesson-time, we heard sirens, but didn't think too much of them as we are in a city where sirens are commonplace. Next, we broke up into pairs (leader/clubber) for handbook time, the most important part of CHOICE. This is when the clubber learns more about God, His love for them, and how they may accept Christ and live for Him. After handbook time, the kids say their memory verse for the week and receive candy as a prize. They play some more games, then CHOICE is over for the week. Some of the children go home, while others remain at the center until parents/guardians pick them up.
The children that attend CHOICE come from different families than most of us are used to. These children may or may not live with their parents. Many do not know their fathers. Many do not have much money and are grateful for the snacks and dinners they may receive at the center. All, however, are looking for friendship and love.
Two weeks ago, I met a clubber who has been attending for more weeks than I have been participating. He captured my heart the first week and I was able to share handbook time with him again this past Monday. He is 7 years old and, apparently, has been a handful for some of the leaders. However, with me, he's the sweetest thing. He needed to learn a verse and he struggled with it. I wrote it down for him to take home and learn during the week. He learned another verse well enough for my son to give him a piece of candy. Candy means a lot to most 7 year olds, and "my" boy is no exception! Which brought us to a bit of a problem with him towards the end of CHOICE on Monday. He wanted candy that he thought was due him. Instead of just letting it go, he burst in to tears, ran off from the group, and threw himself on the ground.
While I do not condone such temper tantrums, something about this boy yanks at my heart, so I sat down and put my arm around him. He cuddled up to me immediately. He didn't say much while I asked what was wrong. I gradually explained to him that there are better ways to handle things and even managed to get him to agree to apologize to the leader running the game he ran off from. I gave him a big hug. CHOICE was over and he went home with his sister.
I walked outside with my children and a couple of other leaders. I noticed that the parking lot my van is parked in was surrounded by yellow tape and there were police cars, policemen, and people all over. One of the leaders heard that a child had been hit about an hour before. I asked a police officer if I could get to my van and leave. He double-checked and said it would be ok. It was a bit surreal crossing the yellow tape. We got in the van and began driving home. My 11-year old daughter, who has been blessed with a heart of compassion, suggested we prayed. All in the van (but me, as I was driving) bowed their heads while she prayed for the child who had been hurt - that he/she would be ok, would not die, and for their family. It was quiet for a while.
We got home and I got dinner for the children. As they were eating, I checked the news on the internet. Apparently, around 4:30/5:00 pm, a driver had had a seizure or heart attack causing him to lose control of his car. The car careened into the very ball field where I had notice people playing as I drove into the Ryan Center. Two children were hit...a boy and a girl. The boy was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Today, the girl continues to recover and is expected to do so fully.
(For story, go to: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/article/20110513/NEWS01/105130342/1168/RSS )
No, this boy was not "my" boy. The boy who was hit, however, was the very same age as my clubber. He was the same race, went to the same school, and probably enjoyed candy as much as "my" boy. He was outside enjoying a fun game of kickball with the sun shining down on him. He was probably laughing. Then, he was in heaven. His mother knows God has a reason, but she grieves. The boy's teachers and schoolmates grieve. I will find out this Monday if "my" boy is grieving.
Life is an interesting and fleeting thing. While one seven year old is crying about candy, another seven year old within several hundred yards is entering eternity. When I drive into the parking lot next Monday, my glance over to the ball field will linger. I will most likely see a memorial to a little boy who left this world seemingly too soon.
I don't attempt to understand it. All I know is...I am so glad that I gave "my" boy a hug before he left CHOICE this past Monday and can't wait to give him another one in a few days.