When my friend the coach told me about him, I thought that he is one, but later admitted to myself that he is one of many. The high school student, let’s call him Adam, is trying to play football like many young men do in order to prove himself and to belong to a powerful group in his school. My friend, like every good coach or teacher I have ever known, saw something in Adam because of many factors, but most of all because Adam reminds him of himself long ago when he was a scrawny boy trying to fit in and belong and be valued as a team member. It’s easy to lose your heart to a young person like Adam I told my friend as he shared Adam’s story.
Adam missed two days of practice, and when he returned my friend asked him where he had been. His mother’s car would not start, and she lost her job because she could not get to work. Adam had to stay home and help, and he had no transportation. Coach, sensitive and cautious, asked Adam if he needed a ride home, telling him that he would check the car for his mother. When he looked, Coach found that the problem was so minor that even he could correct it, and after adjusting the problem, he asked Adam, since it was just past lunch, if he was hungry.
Adam admitted that he was but declined the coach’s offer before finally yielding to hunger and saying yes to going to a near-by fast food restaurant. Coach asked if Adam wanted to take two meals home with him for his mother and younger brother, but he said that they would share. Knowing that the meal Adam had was barely enough for Adam, Coach told him to call his mother and ask what she and his brother wanted. Coach and Adam left with a meal for him, his mother, and his brother. Being respectful of Adam and his poverty, Coach chatted with him on the ride to his home. They talked some football, coach made inquiries of his home situation, and Adam said, “I get what I get.” By then they were at his door and Adam, always polite, thanked Coach for the meals and got out of the car with them. Coach drove away to ponder how a high school student, a good, young man, could already have formed such an outlook and philosophy of life.
Adam is no thug whose view is to steal and lie to get what he wants. He is all things that our culture wants in a teenager. He attends school, does his work in the classroom and on the field, follows directions, is polite, honest, fatherless, poor, nutrition deprived, and more. However, as coach and I talked, I realized that there is a fearful chance that life has already beaten Adam down. His comment, “I get what I get,” sounds like words that would come from an older person who has suffered many losses and defeats. But, Adam is not yet out of high school, and he has already learned that he must take whatever scraps he is given or that he can find. Adam takes the scraps now, but like the Syrophoenician mother in the books of Matthew and Mark, he has faith for much more.
Last week I saw an AP story reporting that the Pentagon, whatever or whoever that means, asked Congress “for authorization to use the $300 million [earlier designated aid for Pakistan] for other purposes.”
I know that there are children in Pakistan who are without basic needs, but there are children in America, like Adam, who are without basic needs. One out of four children in Iredell County are nutritionally deprived. They hunger for food that will fuel their bodies and minds. They hunger for warmth during cold nights. They hunger for learning. They hunger for shelter. They hunger in this wealthy land. Yet so many of them, like Adam, suffer getting what they can get, while surrounded by our silence of indifference.
Hearing about Adam from Coach, I saw him as just one, but now realize that he is one, but one of many children who we have left behind.