I’m just warning you: your heart will be captured today. Enjoy the words of an old friend of mine …who’s subsequently become one of my favorite encouragers in these here internet portals. Crystal is a buddy from college, but her enthusiasm and her spirit and her heart will shine through her words today, and you will leave change. Enjoy.
It happened all at once. A flood of passion. I was undone.
Standing in a hallway at a local high school, I was so full of emotion, it was hard to sort through which I felt most: sadness, anger, honor, privilege, pride, complete humility. All of these things were running through my veins in one intense moment. And yet, my own four kids were waiting patiently for me and I had to keep my feet moving. I had to keep the tears from flowing all at once, because I knew when I did have a moment, they would flow and not stop for a long time. Buckets of tears held back in this moment by – well, really, by my sunglasses. And perhaps by the knowledge that this wasn’t a good time to let tears, snot and emotions run freely.
Let me back track: I’ve worked with youth for most of my adult life. I spent the first two years of college trying to figure out and test God’s great love for me. And once I realized it was for real, I wanted teenagers to know his love, too. I started volunteering for an organization called Young Life, playing games and doing crazy stunts, on purpose, to hopefully steer the teens towards Truth. It actually worked sometimes, plus, I met my amazing and handsome husband there – so clearly, it was time well spent.
Then, upon graduation I wrecked the idea I’d given to my parents that I would be a kindergarten teacher, in a jumper, with an apple embroidered on the front, by instead “asserting my independence” and telling them I was going to work for a non-profit, teaching at-risk students, not exactly using the degree that they had just spent thousands of dollars on. (Little did I know, that they had already seen my passion and knew in their hearts I probably would not be the “typical” teacher. Bless them).
When I started having my own kids I was creative with my “teen time” and became the local HS cheer coach. AND I LOVED EVERY SECOND. But their stories broke my heart and I cried for them at night, because it was good and it was hard.
They changed me and I changed them and it was beautiful.
Then we had another baby and moved to the other side of the state – and when you move and have a baby in the same year, your world gets flipped upside down and you become very focused on your own survival. And this is where I have remained …for the past three years.
Focused. On. Myself.
I forgot about students. I forgot their stories. I forgot how they change me for the better. And then a couple of months ago, Ben (the handsome husband), got hired as the head football coach at a local high school, which is a dream fulfilled for him. Our family loves football – and football has become THE TOOL to get me out of this self-focus, survival mode. I’ve been missing the students and their laughter and their stories. I’d forgotten than I missed it.
And that’s how I found myself walking into a high school hallway, seeing boys lining it, in their stinky football clothes. I had come to practice to hand out popsicles. It’s a tradition and it’s always fun to give the boys a little treat. But they left for lunch, so I had to run in to the building when I saw it. The boys, some with lunch, but, like a cold bucket of ice water thrown over my head, the boys without lunch.
Because they hadn’t left their lunch at home on the counter. They weren’t being irresponsible. Not them.
These boys came to two-a-day practice and didn’t have a lunch. These boys come from a high school whose free and reduced lunch rate is at nearly 79%, and when my husband did Captain Interviews, four of these eight kids were homeless or live in a home with no utilities. Their fridge is a cooler with ice, for there is no running water.
And there, standing in that hallway, I remembered what it means to have your heart break with real lives and real stories. I was moved to tears and passion. I was motivated into action. And I had a choice that day, for many years passed since their stories stirred me into action and now I had four kids. Four kids. They too need my time and attention …but these other kids needed food. Can I give my time and attention to my own kids AND feed the homeless? In my spirit, I debated.
Can I love my own four children AND love 100 high schoolers?
How, on this earth, do I do both?
Am I really that brave?
And will my own kids suffer if my heart is now divided by not just four but 104?
All I can say, is that the journey of the past four months has been a modern-day rendition of the five loaves and two fishes. Every week we do a team meal and we feed the players, and last night, we had two at our dinner table.
The community is donating food, time, money and the little (or lot) that they have gets expanded and used and the highschoolers eat. And EVERY TIME these dinners are my own kids “favorite” time of the week. Because their little hearts are also capable of big love – and they are perhaps even more brave in their kindness and unrelentless love than I.
So my heart sings – may I never grow weary of love! May WE never grow weary of love! May love motivate our actions and stir our hearts again.
Crystal Cochran is a stay-at-home mom who is itching to teach again. She is married to the best man on the planet, Ben, and they have four kids: a set of “SURPRISE, you are pregnant with twin boys”, a sweet, bright-shining daughter and a firecracker of a three-year old son. Life with these people is an adventure every day from which she collapses into bed after a glass of Cab Sav. They love each other, camping, Jo-Joes with milk, Jesus, the real Friday night lights and dreaming about someday traveling the world. She blogs occasionally at Simplicity With Power. So, what can you say to encourage she who encouraged YOU today? How does Crystal’s story move you to action?
Also, would you like to help provide a meal to these young men at Rogers High School? You can mail your donation here:
Rogers Gridiron Group, PO BOX 6025, Spokane, WA 992170