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Topic: Click( 04/18/13)
Sounds of Joy
By Claudia Thomason
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“No,” I said, “you let the ball go so you can pick up jacks before the ball falls to the ground.” My explanation didn’t stop his wild grab for the ball as soon as it left my fingers. This silly game clearly made no sense to him. He was probably telling me that, but I couldn’t understand him. Whatever he was saying evoked raucous laughter and exuberant back slapping from the children.
“He says that balls are for catching. To throw a ball and not catch it is like throwing a stick and not untying the dog to go get it,” Irene, our hostess, explained softly. I glanced up and saw a twinkle in her eye. Over the years, she had taken special delight in trying to train this clueless white woman how to think like an African.
Irene was our non-profit agency’s contact in East Africa and was responsible for getting donated funds to schools for these children’s fees and supplies. She also served as their advocate. I was there to take pictures and gather stories about the students for their sponsors in America. On this trip, I brought each child a backpack filled with school supplies and toys from sponsors. Isaaca’s sponsor sent jacks.
“I don’t even remember how to play jacks,” I thought to myself a week earlier while packing backpacks before my trip. “Maybe it’s time to learn how to play again.” After a few tries, I got pretty good at this child’s game. Armed with my new-found skill, I was determined to make this game popular enough to become the new phenomenon in Africa.
An incurable optimist, I tend to think of everything as a grand, larger-than-life opportunity. This was no exception. “If the children like this game, “ I thought excitedly, “it would be a simple matter to send several cases of jacks to Irene. She could sell them and raise money for additional school fees. We could sponsor dozens more children.” I believed I had stumbled upon perhaps the best revenue-generating idea that ever hit Africa. Excited about the lucrative potential of this venture, I couldn’t wait to teach eager masses gravitating toward the game by the hundreds, rejuvenating the economy in the process. That was before I actually got to Africa.
“Isaaca, please don’t catch the ball. Let me teach you. ” Again, I asked him not to interfere. He was determined to thwart my lofty financial plans by catching that darned ball every time it became airborne. I was becoming frustrated. “What is going on?” I questioned. “I can’t possibly be upset with this child, can I?”
Suddenly, I saw this scene from another perspective, a higher perspective. I was in the middle of a room full of happy children. They were having fun. Perhaps tomorrow they wouldn’t have enough food to eat. Tomorrow may bring the death of a parent from AIDS. Tomorrow a baby in their home might succumb to malaria. However, right at this moment, they were permitted to be carefree, laughing at their friend Isaaca as he teased this woman about a game. How could I have been so blind as to miss the real reason I was there? Laughing and hugging Isaaca, I stood and moved to the table with the other adults, allowing him to play the game his way.
A few minutes later, a sound caught my attention. Turning toward the children, I witnessed something amazing. Isaaca was playing with the ball. He had given ten other children their own jacks. Those ten children were dropping their jacks on the floor, watching them spin like little tops. As they fell to the floor, I heard click, click, click, producing giggles from the children. Isaaca saw this game as an opportunity to share a blessing with others, multiplying the joy.
Instantly humbled, I prayed that God would give me a heart as generous as Isaaca’s with the ability to see His purpose in everything, no matter how small-- even as small as a tiny jack.
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