It is the last night of camp and my coaching team and I just finished player evaluations. Basically, we write down a few things that each member of our team did well, what they can improve on, and any other general comments we want them to know. This week has been tiring and trying and I can’t wait to be able to relax and get some sleep, but as I go through and think about the improvements I’ve seen each of my players make, as well as special moments I’ve shared with them, I inevitably become sentimental.
Though there have been frustrating moments, my mind takes me back to the positive ones. I don’t want them to leave, don’t want this camp to be over. The days themselves have felt long, endless even, but somehow we’ve come to the end of the week and I don’t know where the time has gone. There have been moments that tested my patience and there have been moments that tested my stamina. There have been moments when I’ve questioned my ability to make a difference in the lives of these girls.
But then I look back and I smiles that I’ve seen, the understanding of the game my campers have come to. I remember “seeing” the light bulb go off as we introduced a drill addressing something we’ve struggled with during a scrimmage. There have been low moments, as always, but there have also been high moments, as always. The smiles are the indicator; most of my players speak little English, but they’ve been teaching me words in languages with sounds I can’t pronounce. Once they get over the laughter, they fill the air with encouragement and connection. It gives me strength and hope to see them embracing the connection and it also gives me more incentive to continue our work.
We have one camper on our team (well, among a few), whose smile can light up a room. There is so much joy in it, and the thought of seeing that real and true joy is as much reward as I could ever want. I had a nonverbal conversation with her at lunch the other day, and at the end, I motioned and gestured to tell her that it made me happy that we could have a conversation without words. I made a motion to symbolize us talking, and then used my little bit of Arabic and Hebrew to say, “no Arabic, no Hebrew, no English.” Ironically, that was when she called for someone to translate. She said something, and then the player who was translating said to me, “she said she likes that you guys can talk without using any words or language.” I laughed, telling her that that was exactly what I was saying.
It was a simple moment but it was one filled with laughter. Sometimes I think maybe it would be better to sit back and let the moment speak for itself, but on the other hand I think it is important to name it, to call it out, to recognize that change does not come effortlessly. Change does not come without conscious recognition. Change can only come from reflection. The moment that occurred at lunch yesterday was a lighthearted one, but sometimes they are deeper, sometimes they can take a darker tinge. Sometimes the conflict in the Middle East, or any conflict, really, takes a bigger role than at other times, but we handle it the same way: by recognizing the moment. By recognizing what is powerful, what is hurtful, and what we can accomplish through the hurt. How we can empower through the hurt.
Peacebuilding is about voice; it is about having a voice, knowing that voice comes from perspective, and using it in a productive and respectful manner. It is about recognition. Here at Ultimate Peace we work with big changes. But in order to get there we work with little moments. Once connection leads to another, and another, and another. The end of camp is always so hard because the connections are just beginning. We say goodbye but it is just not enough. I’m never satisfied; I’m always craving more. It is not enough and it never will be. But it’s something. And it begins with recognition; it begins with sentiment. So I look back now with nostalgia at the past week, or however long it feels it as been. Though I can’t wait to lay down and give in to the exhaustion, I will continue to look back with sentiment, with recognition, and with reflection.