Volume 3 Issue 7
Not too long ago, club soccer was a very big part of our family’s life. Picking up kids from practice, traveling to tournaments, and occasionally pointing out overlooked fouls to the referees. We did all the usual things that soccer families do.
From those soccer days, there is one soccer tournament in particular that sticks out in my memory. It took place in Metairie, 125 miles from Lafayette. This was the first time we played an all black team. This newly formed team from LaPlace was coached by a short sixty-something bespectacled pipe-smoking Scotsman. He was their middle school science teacher.
The Bombers’ (our team) game against LaPlace was a very different type of soccer game. LaPlace was much more aggressive than other teams that we had played. There was lots of pushing and shoving. Many Bomber parents expressed their dissatisfaction to the referees. Despite the rough play, the Bombers ended up winning the game rather handily. Although the LaPlace team was very athletic, strong and fast, they lacked ball handling skills, touch passes, and proper spacing on the field. In short, they were an inexperienced team.
As we were packing up from the Metairie tournament, one of our parents asked, “Where are their parents?” There was only one parent from the LaPlace team and she sat on the bench with the coach. To haul the equipment and kids back and forth, the LaPlace coach drove a 15 passenger van. Our question “Where are their parents?” carried a subtle middle-class stigma with it: their families don’t care. If, instead of assuming the worst, we had asked the deeper question “Why aren’t their parents here?” our honest inquiry as to “why” may have taken us to deeper levels of understanding.
Recently, we have heard some people wonder out loud “Where are their parents?” in reference to a school’s open house. Again, the implied answer is “because they don’t care.” If instead, we were to ask the deeper question, “Whyaren’t the parent here?” we would actually gain some helpful insights.
For Azalea Park residents, the answer is quite simple. Many of our families don’t have cars. Our kids are bused to the town of Scott 4.5 miles away with no public transportation service between Scott and Lafayette. Even if a parent does have transportation, what is a single mother with three children supposed to do with her children during the open house?
As a Bomber parent, I must admit that I was pretty ignorant to the types of obstacles that families living in generational poverty faced. All I knew was that our whole family was there at the game, while their parents were not. The fact that we didn’t know whytheir parents were not there, may say more about our lack of connection with those who live in generational poverty than it says about their parent’s absence.
Nevertheless, let’s dig deeper and examine our underlying assumption, “Why don’t they care?”
A staff member of the “Bridge,” another urban ministry in Lafayette, was driving through town with his friend. They saw a woman whom he recognized walking along the side of the road. He asked his friend, “do you know why she is walking?’ His friend had no idea. “She is walking to her second job. The bus wouldn’t be able to get her to her second job in time. She takes the bus to her first job, but she has to walk a mile in the Louisiana sun to get to her second job to provide for her family.”That mom cares.
New Hope has currently has 45 registered students with 8 on our waiting list. Last week, one mom came from the Truman neighborhood to register her son. Somehow she had heard about our program. She told us her son was failing the third grade. She couldn’t help him and she didn’t know what to do. She asked if we would help her. Why did she come to us?…She cares.
One grandma had two elementary students on our waiting list. She called, holding back her tears, she told us her second grade grandson was misbehaving at school and both children were having trouble with their school work. Could we please accept them in the program now, she pleaded. That grandma cares.
Just like the Bomber parents, the parents in Azalea Park care. Just like you and me, they want better for their children. They want their kids to succeed. They just face many significant daily obstacles that many of us do not appreciate.
By the way, two years after that soccer game later, that very same LaPlace team defeated the Bomber’s for state championship. All because one small Scotsman cared. Their parents were proud.
We asked, “Where are they?” Maybe the bigger question is, “Where are we?” The fact is for our children to get out of generational poverty, we must intentionally go to poverty.
And our ultimate hope at New Hope is that our children will one day drive their own whole family to the soccer games, as we do today…