Friday, July 16, 2010

Summer Fun Was Had by All

Last night was “Summer Fun” at the homeless shelter. We had told them to wear clothes that could get wet. But as usual my idea of how the evening would unfold was a little different than actuality.

I had spent about a half hour that afternoon re-learning how to make water balloons. Instead of thinking of them as ammunition, I had hoped the children would take up my challenge to pick a partner and see how long they could keep their balloons unbroken as they tossed them back and forth. That was supposed to be the main activity.

On the way over to the shelter, big drops of rain suddenly started to pelt my car. When I had told them to plan to get wet, I didn’t really want a thunderstorm. But by the time I arrived the rain had stopped.

A half dozen kids ranging in age from 3 to 10 sat around the picnic table out back behind the shelter as we read about the heat of summer, the lure of the beach, eating hotdogs, and drinking lemonade. The Todd Parr book “Otto Goes to the Beach” was a big hit.

By the time we were ready to move on the the activities, more children had drifted in. One of the other volunteers gave them the water balloon toss challenge, but they had other ideas. They didn’t throw them at each other, but rather at the side of the brick building where they all live, squealing with delight at each SPLAT. Unfortunately all the balloons I made in a half hour were forcefully exploded in about 90 seconds. One very sweet 10-year-old boy did agree to toss with me, but after about 10 catches, our balloon too was gone.

Then they moved on to a choice of bubble soap or sand play. Each child had a small bottle of bubbles and a wand. I showed them how to catch bubbles they had blown and how to combine them to make larger bubbles.

What really surprised me was their love of playing in the sand. My idea had been to make sand castles like you would at the beach. (Only two kids had ever been to the beach.) I had about 10 pounds of white sand left over from making sand bags for yoga. I added water to make it slosh and gave them a couple of shovels and some little paper plates. They made pretend food on the plates. They were mesmerized by the feel of the wet sand and were delighted that no adult was telling them not to get dirty.

(This picture was taken back home as I was cleaning up.)

Several of the children continued to play with the sand as the evening’s snack was brought out. My husband had grilled Hebrew National hotdogs so we could have one of summer’s best treats. Some of the kids put way too much catsup and mustard on them, but we were outside so it didn’t matter. We had a big bowl full of chips and plenty of lemonade to drink. One 8-year-old managed to eat 3 hotdogs, while others took a bite and then ran off to play. I dubbed a 5-year-old twin “Chief Lemonade Pourer.”

At the end of the evening everyone got to pick a piece of colored sidewalk chalk. Some managed to get two, claiming an older sibling would love one too. As we loaded up the car to go home, the children were happily decorating the sidewalk.

They seemed to love the freedom of being outside. I heard a lot of PLEASE and THANK YOU’s, something rare in the usual inside basement reading room. I think everyone had a good time, including the 3 volunteers!


Blogger kvn299 said...

Sounds like it was a wonderful time.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous lr said...

You are certainly enriching the lives of the children who pass through the shelter. You created a real summer day for them with the hot dogs, lemonade, sand, and water balloons. You, also, primed the pump for their enjoyment of the games & snacks the summer stories. What a gift you shared to all, including your readers.

4:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Barbara, I teared up reading this post. What a gift of your imagination, time, attention, and caring you offer to these kids. The world's a better place!

7:25 PM  
Blogger Russell said...

What a wonderful post!

It is so heart warming to see a person, such as yourself, give so much to people who have so little.

And, as always, by giving to others it turns out we are actually the ones who seem to receive the most.

I have been away from blogging for several weeks but will come back to go through your recent posts. I always enjoy your blog.

Take care and, again, such a wonderful post.

9:01 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

I've learned so much from these kids who are so resilient despite the situations that landed them in the homeless shelter. I really look forward to my monthly visit to read to them.

10:10 PM  
Blogger Cyndy said...

Wow, that sounds so nice. You showed the kids how to have some good clean summertime fun and that is a real gift considering the grim circumstances most of them have had to deal with. Teaching lightheartedness as you have done might help them to be even more resilient!

10:56 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Definitely a good time. They seemed to like it all as did the moms and shelter employees.

10:09 AM  

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