In my last post I shared a snapshot of my story. Though my passion was certainly born from my own personal experience – it was strengthened through my time volunteering.
Volunteering wasn’t an “option” in our house growing up. My Mom was constantly volunteering. She served as an EMT on the local volunteer fire department, was active at my school, served in our church, and was a part of the local chapter of the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. She modeled for us that serving others was a lifestyle.
When I got sick I found myself feeling very depressed. My illness had prevented me from doing many of the things I loved. Thankfully a family friend, Pat Howey (who also happened to be helping my Mom lobby the school to get me the education I needed), invited me to serve with a non-profit organization she lead called Foundations Sports League. Foundations provided kids with special needs the opportunity to be a part of a basketball league. (For those of you unfamiliar with Hoosier culture; we love basketball more than you can imagine. It’s a HUGE part of our community.)
Each week on Friday night we would gather at the local community center for practice. But basketball wasn’t the only thing that happened when this exceptional crew got together – they shared about their weeks, their frustrations and their triumphs. And when they hit the court they were just a bunch of Indiana Kids doing what so many others took for granted – shooting hoops on a Friday night with friends.
These kids will always be rock stars in my book. My point guard was born without legs and played without the use of a wheelchair (yeah – think on that one for a minute!). He probably had the most steals of any person I have EVER played basketball with. This kid could steal the ball and you wouldn’t even realize it until he was half way down the court passing it to his team mate.
My forward was visually impaired and is still to this day – the BEST free throw shooter I have ever met. The basketballs we would use had jingle bells in them to help him, and other players who were visually impaired, better hear the ball. He would practice at the line for hours and had the most surgically accurate shot once he got himself lined up. (And just try to distract him – you CAN’T – he didn’t care if you waved your arms at him and yelled to throw him off – he had a laser focus and sank the shot all the time!).
I even had the world’s greatest Assistant Coach. One of the kids had a passion for coaching and so that became his role on the team! He and I had matching warm up uniforms and he would follow me like a shadow on the side lines – pacing back and forth and cheering for his team. He would recommend plays and “coach” me on what I should do.
The parents were just as incredible as the kids. They shared stories with me and told me of the incredible adversity their children and their families had overcome. I understood from my own story that disability and illness take a toll on the entire family unit. Even then God was showing me that my ministry would be not only to people with disabilities, but to their families as well.
Technically I was the one serving – but to be perfectly honest those kids gave me a gift I can never repay. They encouraged my heart each week to see that everyone has potential and everyone has a place on the team….even me!
My time serving with Foundations truly was a “foundation” for my inclusive worldview. I learned that everyone has something unique to offer and the world is better for taking time to know what that is. God used that incredible group of kids to further fuel my passion to reach people with disabilities with his good news.
I also learned the value of inviting people to be on mission with you. Had Pat Howey not taken the time to invite me to be a part of her program I wouldn’t be the person I am today. As a result I am now a shameless recruiter. I know how rich my life has been because I have been invited into other people’s story. Who can you invite to join you in your mission? Who has God placed in your path? Don’t be shy – there’s a world to change and there are plenty of spots open on the team!
Next time I’ll finish out this series by telling you about my ministry adventures thus far, and talk about the incredible things I believe God is calling me to now.
Here’s to changing the world….