I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It is so easy to make friends with kids.
One day I returned from a bridal shower and without changing out of my nicer clothes, took a walk with my 6-pound dog named Mia. No matter the age of the kid, this tiny dog seems to captivate the eyes and hands of almost every kid in the apartment complex- girls and boys alike. As I headed back to my apartment after the walk, each eye that spotted the puppy drew right toward her.
“It’s Mia! Awww, hi Mia!” ….. [stroke, pet, drool,]… “Oh, hi Amelia!”
Though I must be at least twenty times taller than this cute creature, I tend to be the second one noticed. It’s alright; I’m the one who ends up in conversation.
That particular day, the boys were playing soccer (better known as futbol) in the alley way. An abandoned roller blade boot and razor scooter serving as one set of goal posts and the red painted curb serving as the other. Mia eventually went back in the apartment and a few of my young girl friends helped me make some fresh popcorn. We sat on the curb, stuffed our faces, I listened to the latest school drama and we watched the boys whip around with their fresh futbol skills. I wanted to play, but needed an opportunity to prove myself. The ball rolled through one goal and straight to my toes. Now was my chance. I hopped up, scooped up the ball and drop kicked it back into play.
“Whooaaaaaa”…and then a few glances back in my direction, as if the boys didn’t know girls could kick a futbol correctly. I eventually invited myself into the game. We formed teams and played to 5 goals. I may or not have shown off my skills. That day the boys learned my name and haven’t forgotten it since.
Futbol and food makes friends and the acceptance I received from those kids that day filled my heart right up.
Most of the kids that hang outside in my apartment complex are the children of refugee or immigrant parents. Most of their families have come from Iraq, Afghanistan, or Mexico.
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This past week had been a rough one and not just for me. As if trying to process two deaths in my circle of relationships wasn’t enough, I was also battling some minor seizure activity that flares up from time to time. Sometimes it takes me a while to regain all my speaking and listening abilities after an episode. I had just experienced some activity but let myself out for an evening walk with Mia. Some of my favorite girlies in the complex found Mia (and me) as we walked. I wasn’t feeling too great, so I dismissed us, promising to loop back around on our way in.
My friend, Dida, found me again. She had been having a hard time (6th grade and refugee life isn’t all sunshine and butterflies, you see) and needed to enter into a venting session. I tried to explain to her why I was struggling in my communication and listened to the best of my ability as we sat on the curb and talked a bit through her latest struggles. I didn’t know how much my explanation of seizures had really made sense to her or how helpful my words or advice about life really were.
Next week came around and I saw the girls again. Dida came up to me, reunited with her best friend in the complex, and they both gave me hugs. She asked me how I was doing and if my brain was okay by now.
Sweet girl. She had remembered.
Dida and her family are from Iraq. Her Dad is living in Arizona and working a job there, visiting the family only once every couple months, according to her. Her family of 7 is living in a two bedroom apartment. I don’t write this to provoke pity. But seriously, take a glance. Refugee life and youth life mixed? It’s not easy.
Some of my favorite moments in the week come from 5-15 minute moments spent with the kids. It’s times like these–stealing their soccer ball, greeting them by their names and asking them about their day or seeing them put a water bottle on their head and challenging them to a more impressive balancing job– that allow me to be a very real human who isn’t too busy to stop and have a little fun or listen to whatever they deem most important in the moment.
In the midst of a week filled with pain, struggles and not enough energy or time to feel very capable of hardly anything, what I could do was be present with my neighbors.
The kids in my complex are some of the best at paving a way for neighborly relationships.