for release July 26, 2002
by Melodie Davis
Are Children a Distraction or Inspiration?
I forget where or how I first heard the question posed: as a writer, is having a family a distraction or an inspiration?
I remember times when I thought maybe children were a distraction: anyone who has ever tried to work at home on a project while answering calls of "Mommy! Come help me," or "Will you peel an apple for me?" or "Read me a story" knows that the distractions can be continual. And it is not just writers of course: artists, mechanics, bookkeepers, woodworkers, or even just doing regular housework: you either have to find a way to involve the children or count on countless calls for your attention.
Even when you are working away from home, children are a distraction: you worry about their childcare, the runny nose; you have to line up appointments and leave work to take them to the doctor. They are always in the back of your mind even while working a production line or answering phones for the president of the company.
But if they are a distraction, they are a blessed distraction. I more often find they are my greatest inspiration. Just a single line, word or look can frequently inspire a whole column. Even someone slaving away in a poultry house, in a plywood plant or dunking baskets of fries into hot grease, children are frequently the push that gets them through a long and difficult day. "I've got mouths to feed," is the old expression, conjuring up images of a mama or papa bird dangling worms over the beaks of their waiting young.
A reader recently shared a story-not about her own child, but about a child that her church sponsored. This child became an inspiration to not just one family but an entire community. St. Andrews United Church in River Heights, Winnipeg (Manitoba) sponsored orphans from Sierra Leone last summer. The children had lived in a refugee camp for six years: their father was killed and they presumed their mother was dead since they hadn't seen her in years. Even though two of the children are of legal age-21 and 19, young Mohamed was 16 and he wanted more than anything to be able to play soccer in his new home in Canada.
Carrie writes, "Mohamed is a talented, skillful soccer player. He bugged me repeatedly to get him on a soccer team for this summer and insisted that it had to be a good soccer team. I would tell him of the commitment and the onus of getting to practices, games, etc. He would reply by saying, 'Miss Carrie, when they see how good I am. They won't let me miss a practice. They will come to pick me up. Don't worry.'
"My own boys are not playing competitively so I had to make a few phone calls in order to make the right connections for Mohamed. My last connection happened to be with the coach for [an excellent] team who said that since there was one spot open, he would give Mohamed a chance to try out for it.
"Mohamed was thrilled and so were we. We knew that Mohamed had never worn cleats before and didn't own shin pads or soccer socks, so we set out the day before his try out to make a few purchases. My husband knows the owner of [a sports store] so we wanted to support her business.
"She was incredibly warm and welcoming. We introduced her to Mohamed and she immediately made him feel supported and comfortable. My husband and I had agreed that we would buy the items Mohamed needed as a gift to him regardless whether he made the team or not. We knew he would use the items on his own if he didn't make it or else join a community soccer team.
"When we went to make our purchase, the counter was stacked with Mohamed's items and our children's (how can you walk into a sports store with four boys, my three plus Mohamed, and not buy a thing?). The owner insisted that she cover the cost of Mohamed's equipment. She wanted to give him the items as a gift. And it wasn't about making the team or not. It was about giving, kindness, and making someone happy.
"We felt such joy and appreciation by her generous gift, and wanted to share our story with you," wrote Carrie.
I found the story of this teen-and the community around him, inspiring. Imagine living in a refugee camp for six years without any parents. Yet he must have been playing and practicing soccer all that time, maybe with only a faint dream of one day being on a real team. What an inspiration! And in spite of the inconveniences or distractions (driving Mohamed to practice) there are many lessons in caring to be learned along the way. That is the same with all children.
Carrie adds as a postscript, "By the way. He made the team!"
How have children been an inspiration to you? Send your stories to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 775 words; end material = 105 words
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