On Tuesday of the first full week of school, I picked up Elijah from Kindergarten. He was hungry so we sat at the round tables in the courtyard. While Elijah ate the remainder of his lunch, we watched his brother, Ethan, and his 7th grade class in a competitive game of kickball, boys versus girls.
This year, we have our first student from China. Her name is Pei Ling. She is staying with a host family and when she graduates from Saint John’s, she plans go to one of the top high schools in the county and then off to an American college. I find her courage and tenacity awe inspiring. Although she is bi-lingual, there is a lot about American culture that she is learning, including kickball. If it’s been a while since you’ve played kickball, it’s like baseball, played with an inflated rubber ball, but unlike baseball, you can throw the ball at someone to get them out.
Pei Ling was hiding at the back of the line-up. In the second inning, it was her turn to kick. The girls were in the lead by a run, with one out and a runner on third. Coach Montijo said, “Okay, next up.” She shook her head and tried to become invisible in the group of girls. He said, “Everyone kicks; come on, step up.” The girls reassured her and told her just to kick it, “don’t worry about where it goes, just kick.” She timidly stepped up into the batter’s box. George, the pitcher, rolled a good ball to her – not fast but certainly not slow. Pei Ling put her shoulders back and kicked a bouncing line drive past George and to the shortstop. The girls yelled, “RUN!” and off she went. Ethan was covering first and had his outstretched hands to get the ball. The shortstop threw it across the infield and made it to Ethan on the third bounce but Pei Ling was already standing safely on the base. The girls cheered and then the boys joined in and everyone applauded and cheered for her. She stood on the base beaming. It was her first base hit in kickball.
I had goose bumps on my arms because of the support and cheering they gave a shy student from China that they’ve known for only a few days. The teacher didn’t tell the students to cheer and support her, they just did.
During my middle school years, I never witnessed anything like that. When I was in school, the new person would be made fun of until they tried kicking the ball and then someone trying to prove a point would go out of their way to get the new person out. Unfortunately, that’s just how things happen in most middle schools. Saint John’s is no ordinary Middle School.
How can we learn from these students? How can we act more like them in our life?
Each Chapel service at Saint John’s this year starts with the phrase from Jesus, “You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before others so that others may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:14, 16) I saw some of that light on the play field. And I give glory to God for being a part of it. May God give me the courage to let my light shine for others to see.