January 23, 2008

I’ve seen the toughest around

The clock on my office desk reads 5:37 p.m.

I am cleaning up my desk and packing my laptop into my shoulder bag along with some papers I will need to do more work with that evening. It has been two weeks since I started my new job of running this Y and there is a lot to do. I am weary and tired from a long day of staring at budget numbers and my mind wanders to my family waiting for me at home. Outside my office door sits the front desk and I can hear that our receptionist is helping someone register for a program.

I glance out my door and I see a woman, about my age, filling out paperwork and I can see clearly from where I stand that one of the forms is a financial assistance form. I don’t see anyone with her however and so I continue to pack up. I don’t like clutter on my desk when I come in to work in the morning so I spend a few minutes putting things where they belong. When I am done, I put on my jacket as it is dark and chilly outside and I pick up my bag and head for my office door.

I once again see the woman in the lobby. She has just finished filling out her paperwork and is handing our receptionist a $10 bill. As the receptionist takes her payment I notice, for the first time, that the woman is not alone. Standing quietly beside her I see a little boy who looks to be about four. At this moment, the lady bends down and gives the boy a hug and says joyfully, “You’re going to play soccer like a big boy!” The little boy beams a smile so bright, I don’t notice the darkness as I walk through the lobby and out the front door.

I reflect on what I had just seen as I head to my car in the parking lot. I make a mental note that a season of soccer costs $50 and the woman paid $10. And then I remember that beautiful smile.

I can’t help but smile myself as I think of the hard work that goes into making programs available for everyone – no matter their financial situation – and I once again think of that little boy being hugged by his mother. Someday, in the future, he will think back on this soccer experience and won’t ever realize that his mother struggled to make ends meet – but still found a way to let him play soccer “like a big boy.”

I open the door to my car, slide into the front seat and I think of my own little ones waiting for me at home. My eyes briefly well up with unspilled tears as I know how much that mother loves her son – as much as I love mine – and I am struck by her courage to walk through our doors and ask for help. And I absolutely love that we can answer that call.

I wipe my eyes dry, start the ignition and back out of my space to begin the drive home. I no longer feel weary and I think about how much I love what I do.

The title of this post was from an 80′s song. Can you guess the song?


  1. An excellent post, and an excellent work. I don’t have the words to commend you for your efforts in making the world a better place, or for your insight in recognizing both the goodness in your own life, and the goodness you can bring to the lives of others. I can’t think of any way better to motivate you to continue doing good work through the tough, boring times.

    Comment by Margot — January 23, 2008 @ 10:32 pm

  2. and thanks for reminding me that is why we do, what we do…because you know, she works hard for the money (I couldn’t help myself)
    love mom

    Comment by Grandmother — January 23, 2008 @ 11:35 pm

  3. I love this story.
    Thank you for doing what you do and for sharing it with us.

    Comment by Cathy — January 24, 2008 @ 4:29 am

  4. Jump, 1984, Van Halen. Yes!

    Oh, and by the way, you have an incredible job. Lucky you.

    Comment by Becky — January 24, 2008 @ 5:58 am

  5. Beautiful post… there’s a reason I volunteer at the YMCA here in town, and you just described it better than I ever could…

    Comment by Kemp — January 24, 2008 @ 6:03 am

  6. It’s good to make a difference.

    Comment by Dan — January 24, 2008 @ 6:48 am

  7. You’re very lucky to love what you do. Thank you for making that moment, and many more like them, possible.

    Comment by Kizz — January 24, 2008 @ 6:58 am

  8. I don’t ever like starting my day by crying. Who does? But that post totally touched my heart. And I am glad the moment touched yours enough to write about it.

    Comment by Jay — January 24, 2008 @ 6:59 am

  9. Amen, brother. Amen.

    Comment by Undercover Mutha — January 24, 2008 @ 9:44 am

  10. I’m always late!

    Comment by Sarsh, Goon Squad Sarah — January 24, 2008 @ 12:02 pm

  11. What a great story. I’m actually looking at enrolling Ane in soccer at our local Y this spring!

    Comment by Deanna — January 24, 2008 @ 12:14 pm

  12. Great post, but I’ve never liked that song. My favorite days at the theater were always when schools that got financial assistance brought the kids in for tours or a show. Some of them had never been in a theater before and they’d really light up. Things like that make the work worth it.

    Comment by Darren — January 24, 2008 @ 2:00 pm

  13. Wonderful post, wonderful day, and a wonderful thing you do.

    Comment by samantha jo campen — January 24, 2008 @ 5:20 pm

  14. De-lurking to say that that was/is an awesome post.

    Comment by siobhan — January 25, 2008 @ 12:56 am

  15. Really, you should do PR work with stories like that. Jeepers – make me tear up in the office! Good job. So glad to know that there are people who care. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Jane — January 25, 2008 @ 5:06 pm

  16. What a beautiful story. I work with many kids who could belong to that mom. I have years of experience working with non-profits and underwritten programs. Back in my former life, my company funded the Y’s assistance program for things like basketball and swimming lessons. I think it was called “Open Door.”

    Some months, I feel not far removed from that mom. Like this month, having to pay the increased amount for Girl Child’s soccer season. And she wants to try out for Select Soccer next year. 10x the price of Rec Soccer.

    I found you by way of my friend Bite My Cookie, and have bookmarked your site.

    Comment by SchoolNurseJack — January 26, 2008 @ 5:00 pm

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