All the 6th graders at Chenery Middle School have to do community service. It's a great opportunity for kids, and I wanted it to be meaningful for Jonah. His friend Bekkah is volunteering at a nursing home, and other kids are working at a food pantry. I thought about taking him to a soup kitchen, but they can be so depressing and I'm not sure Jonah is ready for that.
I went to a soup kitchen once and haven't quite recovered. Although that's more because of my dad than any of the people getting a meal. Here is my account that I shared in my eulogy at dad's funeral: 'My favorite food story with dad took place on their mission to inner city Detroit. They were scheduled to do their weekly shift at the soup kitchen and mom insisted that I go with my father, feigning fatigue, shoving us out the door. We get there, in the middle of the ghetto, with all manner of homeless people from the purely down and out to junkies and hobos. As the people came down the line, dad would greet each one uniquely, such as “Yo brother, what’s up?” or “Word to your mother” or “Give me five my man,” with accompanying hand gestures he’d probably memorized from thugs on Law & Order. I couldn’t watch. I admit I switched to dish duty so that I wouldn’t have to witness the looks on the faces of the people that my sweet dad was trying so hard to connect with. Or watch someone stab him. Truly the Lord was watching over him and keeping him safe.'
Then I thought about the Special Olympics. The preschool & elementary school Jonah went to have been "integrated," meaning the kids with special needs aren't segregated to separate classes but blended in with the "normal" kids (really, who is "normal?"). And Jonah has always been drawn to these kids (or vice versa). One time in first grade he went to a party for a girl with cerebral palsy and when I got there I realized he was the only one there without a handicap (or at least without one recognized by the board of education). I got all verklempt watching Jonah in the midst of a water fight. And thru my tears I couldn't tell who was "special" and who wasn't. And when I was pregnant with Bea and we anticipated some type of birth defect, I used to lay awake at night and wonderful what event my little girl would participate in at the Special Olympics. PF has volunteered several times, Ray Ray & Boo ran the bocce ball tournament one year, and back in our BYU days, Dave, his brother Scott & I helped with some Provo based events (the highlight for me was that Scott put "Bob Frapples" on his name tag). So this is a cause that's near and dear to us in a roundabout way and that's why I encouraged Jonah to do something for the Special Olymics.
So Jonah has created Team Hobos to participate in a 5k on December 6th. Jonah says, "If anyone wants to join our team I'd love having more people to walk with us or you can go to the website and donate to the Games. Go Special Needs!"