GUATEMALA (FOX19) - August 6, 2011
I'm not good at soccer. I'm just not.
The last time I played, I was seven –years- old and I scored a goal for the other team.
But I played soccer this week.
On Thursday, the CoEd group attended a school inauguration at an elementary school high in the mountains of Guatemala. It took hours to get to the small school, with miles of trekking on winding dirt roads. The drive often seemed perilous and left me wondering if the 4Runner I rode in would make it.
That ride made me car sick for the first time in my life.
But when the group got to the school, we were given a welcome fit only for the best. The teachers of the small school had strung up a balloon archway at the front of the courtyard and scrubbed the playground clean. Streamers crisscrossed the balconies of the school. Everywhere we saw signs of a true fiesta.
The ceremony that followed made us all feel like dignitaries. Some were even moved to tears. The kids seemed so happy to be getting the textbooks, so happy to join the reading cooperative and to get much needed basic supplies.
And then came recess.
CoEd staffers often time these visits so that volunteers can interact with the kids during their normal play time. It's also an operative time for someone like me to take photos.
I had been snapping my lens a few minutes when I felt one of the new soccer balls the CoEd team brought to the students brush up against my leg. I shooed it away, but soon felt it again. The second time I looked up from my camera I saw a little boy whose big eyes begged me to kick the ball back. He couldn't have been more than eight-years-old.
Why not? I thought.
I kicked to him once and he kicked it back. We had just enough space in the courtyard to get a sort of game going. Before I know it, the challenge had begun. He barely can speak Spanish (his community speaks an indigenous language called Kaqchikel); I barely speak Spanish, but that didn't matter at all. Somehow, he managed to get the rules across to me. Certain sections of the playground became the goal, certain kicks were considered better than others. When one of us scored a goal, he let me know it.
I've often been told soccer's the universal language. On this day, I would have called it even more than that. Soccer had done a better job of breaking down barriers than any interpreter ever could.
Soon three other boys joined in, and it was Sara Celi vs. them all. We played back and forth for what seemed like forever. And I probably wouldn't have minded keeping it that way.
Somewhere in the game, it occurred to me how simple things in life can be when we just let things go. Nothing else really mattered in that moment. He was a child just like any other; this match up had forced me to focus. Life doesn't always have to be about emails or Facebook posts; it doesn't matter how much money you have or don't have. It's not about a commute to work or politics in the office. In the end, life can be simple when we let it.