Friday, March 05, 2010

Boys and Girls Club meets Odyssey of the Mind

The past few days I have spent my morning in prayer. (centering prayer, meditation, whatever you want to call it). I have prayed for every kid, coach, judge, parent and driver involved with our Odyssey of the Mind teams.

This praying has reminded me of the beauty of each of these kiddoes. It has helped me be less spastic. Most of all, it has shown me what a gift I have been given. The gift of sharing this alternate universe (the Club meets OM universe) with families I may otherwise, never get to know.

I was recently awarded a beautiful blogger award (which I have no idea how to show or pass on by the way) from sardine mama at

I was awarded, not so much, for my impressive writing style;) my craziness in coaching 4 Odyssey of the Mind teams. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Coaching too many OM teams..and why I keep coming back.

First I want to clarify. I am the education coordinator for a Boys and Girls Club. We are sending 4 teams. I coach spontaneous to all 4 teams and oversee them all. But I am only coaching or assistant coaching 3 of them. So..not as crazy as it may seem. I have been lucky to have some volunteers step forward to coach our junior high team.

Now to truly appreciate the beauty of Boys and Girls Club meets OM you need to know what both the Club and OM is.

The Boys and Girls Club is a community center who primarily serve disadvantaged youth from the ages of 6-18. Our annual membership is $10 a year. We scholarship some of our families. I live in the rural Tx. Hill Country. Meaning..of the kids on my OM teams..70% live below the poverty level.

Yes..their parents/parent/relative work. Sometimes two or three jobs. These kids are latch-key kids by necessity. These parents are the nurses aids, the dishwashers, the wait-staff the bartenders, the ranch hands. Our families are used to going for periods of time without water or electric. Some are occasionally homeless. Locating the next meal is on the minds of many.

Our families not below the poverty level are often from foster-homes. Some of our families are migrant workers. Quite a few of our kids are born in prison. They are raised by other family members. A few simply have medical or physical disabilities. About 10% of our Club kids we refer to as our "milk and cookie kids". They add a nice balance to the mix.

Every one of these kids has at least one (if not more) family or foster-family member that deeply cares about them. If not..we would never see them at the Club. We try to partner closely with these families and help them deal with the life circumstances that come their way...and I am humbled by many of these kids and their families.

Now..take these kids. Many who are ghost kids or fighters as a matter of survival..and introduce them to Odyssey of the Mind.

Wow..what a spicy group!

We have a lot of fun. We have a lot of tears. We have a lot of panic, which can quickly degenerate into cuss words. We learn new methods of relating. We have a lot of hugs.

I see kids reach beyond the perceived barriers of their immediate environment. I see families proud of their children who are often overlooked. I see little miracles happen all around me.

It is holy.

In Greek..hiero..(holy) means different. This is interesting considering our current Western understanding of the word holy. But it's original form meant different. Synagogues were considered holy because they were different.

One of my favorite songs is titled "holy ground"..the lyrics go something like "This is holy ground; we're standing on holy ground..." I challenge you to substitute the word "holy" with the word "different". This is how I feel about my time with these kids and OM.

It is different ground..we're standing on different ground...and I feel privileged to be a part of this strange combination of Worlds.

Does this mean OM solves these kids problems? No.

Does this mean our Club kids blow the more traditional teams away? No way. We hold our own... usually. Sometimes we do world finals awesome. Sometimes we just tank and bottom out. We learn from our mistakes.

Does this mean I am going to be scrambling around this morning looking for vampire teeth, lab coats and a missing rubber hand? Absolutely!

One of the other coaches from another team put it best. I think her words were "Don't underestimate these Club kids..they need a longer learning curve than ours (wealthy school district kids), but once they get it..there is no stopping them!"

And she is right.


Sardine Mama said...

While you're looking for that rubber hand - have you seen a large green vinyl sheet??? Can't find ours.

grillledcheesechic said...

Yikes..just saw the message. Nope, no rubber sheet here;) Enjoyed our brief passing glances at the competition...see ya soon?