There was a time when you would be hard-pressed to fine a vacant lot, a basketball court reclaimed by nature or a baseball field with no kids playing on it. During my day it was unheard of. That situation simply didn’t exist. From the moments our feet hit the ground until the sun set and the streetlights came on, we were outside playing.
A discarded broom became a bat. A doll’s head was taped up and became a baseball. Old tires served as bases, while a brick wall became our backstop.
Sometimes we would have an adult cut up a towel so we could play flag football. If one of our parents were blessed to get a new appliance, we had ourselves a new fort. Times were great and creative, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
That was then and this is now, and those days are long gone. This isn’t the Field of Dreams generation of, “If you build it they will come.” The fields, courts and empty lots all are there, but the children aren’t, or at least they weren’t.
That all changed last week through Thirst Ministries, when Eddie Nichols and his band of volunteers reclaimed those silent, abandoned and rarely used playgrounds. With the help of a youth group from New Teamon Baptist Church in Slocomb, we received a glimpse of what could be for a week.
One team was dispatched to paint a house on Cherry Street, while Jett Parker and another team painted a house on Avenue E. Eddie took some of the youth to the nursing homes to visit and sing with the elderly. I was assigned to assist Dena Thacker working with the children in the 6th Street and Emma Samson housing areas. We played games, just like in the old days. There was no joysticks, Xbox, or play stations. Instead, the children ran, jumped, and experienced what we old people know as ‘sweat.’
A special thank-you goes out to Tommy of Vital Signs for his assistance in painting the houses and providing the bucket truck.
Afterwards, the children danced, sang songs, and listened to bible stories about Jesus. Eddie believes if you cannot get the children to church, then we will bring the church to the children.
I mentioned earlier that we were able to see a glimpse or what could and should be. Although some would argue that a little is better than nothing at all, it seems unfair that many of our youth don’t have some sort of affordable, structured and easily accessible positive fun throughout the summer. I don’t know how we can expect to change our future for the better if we invest so little in the youth of today.
We are not blind. We know the statistics, and know all too well that if we don’t address their needs by being proactive via prevention and intervention, these hurting children may grow up to become broken adults.
Benjamin Franklin stated, “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.” We are also admonished in scripture to, “Train up children in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it.” That is what I believe the mission of Thirst is all about. Showing the children in our city that they have worth and that someone loves them. And that through God they are capable of doing great things!