The kids were to have recess before lunch so they drifted out one by one. I remained in the classroom long enough to clean my brushes and to wipe off the tops of the paint bottles. I packed everything back into my navy blue carrying case and then used some baby wipes to clean my hands and to wipe the dusty sweat off my face and neck. The wipes came away brown, looking like I hadn’t showered in weeks. I was sitting in a sauna, with a mud mask, and I wasn’t even at a spa. Nobody had told me about this mission trip perk!
When I was finished mopping up, I followed the group outside. I’d always loved recess; the swings, the teeter totter, the monkey bars, the slide, tether ball, tag, red rover, marbles, and jump rope. My list could go on. The reality of their recess was something very different. There was no playground. There were no toys and there didn’t appear to be any kind of organized games. The only thing playing tag was the cool mountain breeze and nobody wanted to run from that. Recess was just a chance to stand outside, to move from the warm classroom to the hot courtyard. Some of the children were talking. Some of them sat on a cement step in the shade with the teacher and the Pastor’s daughter. Tinkerbell must have been chasing dreams as she fluttered about in a random path of movement.
I had been anticipating this moment all morning. There was a duffle bag in the kitchen that held a wonderful surprise for these children. Through generous donations from some dear friends and from the Bunner Ridge CEOS Club, I had been able to purchase soccer balls, jump ropes, and Frisbees to give to the children at each site where we worked. Just around the corner from where the children stood, I set the soccer ball down and gave it a mighty kick into the courtyard. There were a few seconds of stunned silence before the two youngest boys ran after the ball. They began passing it, shouting excitedly with each kick. The bright orange and white ball looked out of place, its color foreign against the dull brown pavement and the grey cement walls. I suspected that the joyous shouts echoing around the courtyard were equally rare.
As I walked toward the girls, I found myself hoping that they knew what to do with the jump rope. At almost sixty, I could still jump, but I wasn’t sure how my bladder would handle it. I did not want to pee my pants, or fart for that matter, in front of these people. Fortunately for me, Maria was a pro. She jumped solo for awhile before the teacher and I held the ends of the rope, turning it so that Keila could have a turn. At three, her jumping skills weren’t the best and I don’t think she understood the concept of the timing. By having her jump, jump, jump nonstop, we were finally able to swing the rope under her feet. She beamed.
We then played with the Frisbee for a bit but we weren’t very accurate with the throwing and none of us could catch. Hot, sweaty, and happy they went to lunch reluctantly. I like to think that they hated to leave me, but I thought it was also possible that they had smelled the stewed chicken livers. It would be a few steps beyond normal to look forward to that lunch.