The Year We Learned to Fly by Mike Saylor

I suppose I should start with hello. 

During the course of this school year, contributing to this blog has on my same to-do list as reading War and Peace in its entirety (I once got 300 pages in before I surrendered) and moving all my digital pictures to an external hard drive.  Both are good ideas, but they are things that I never seem to get done.   And so it has been with writing for this blog.  Numerous ideas have crossed my mind over the course of the year, but never have they stuck around long enough for me to write them down and post them...until now.

Here we are near the end of our second year of offering afterschool homework assistance and I am finally entering the VMC blogosphere and saying hello.  So...

Hello!  It's good to be back.

As it is for most things done a second time, our afterschool program didn't have the drama or the emotion that was part of our first year experience.  At least it didn't at the beginning.

The year started slowly.  Only a few kids showing up on any given day.  Four or five kids were regular.  Six or more kids a day were a lot for us last fall.  Compared to the numbers we had last year (where 10 a day would have been a small number) it was hard not to feel a little deflated.  By the time Christmas break rolled around, we were discussing whether we should completely reassess what we were offering after school. 

But then January came...and a blizzard of kids.  10, 12, 15 kids each day and every day from January until April.  We were humming along.  Actually, I should say we were flying along.

If our first year of our afterschool program was the year we learned to walk (since we were just getting started), our second year was the year we learned to fly.  And, appropriately enough, it just kind of happened.  It was my fault, actually.

The one major difference between this year and last was the amount of homework the kids didn't have most days.  (Apparently Crestview was offering students more time during school to get stuff done.)  This meant that we had a lot of kids together with a lot of free time--especially after the snacks and drinks were distributed.   And that meant kids looking for something to do.

And one day, in an almost desperate moment of figuring out how to keep their attention, I grabbed a piece of notebook paper (it happened to be sitting on the table in front of me) and made a paper airplane. 

It turns out that I make a fantastic paper airplane.  And it also turns out that no one has made a paper airplane since the advent of the 21st century and kid-accessible computer technology.  They were amazed with my planes!  The kids love them.  They wanted to make them (but after many failed attempts they quickly decided that I should be the sole maker of planes) and they especially wanted to "race" them (which meant having a contest of seeing who could throw their plane the farthest).

This was definitely the year of the airplane, the year the VMC and our afterschool kids learned to fly. 

Yeah, it makes a good and obvious metaphor.  The afterschool staff really hit their stride this year.  We had incredible leadership and assistance in Mary Collins and Coleen Etzler and in the many faithful helpers (particularly our high school youth!) who were more than willing to be there for the kids. 

This year saw a bigger emphasis on faith as we had a brief time of prayer before we passed around snacks.  Sometimes, one of the kids would lead the prayers.  Very often, the kids would offer prayer requests.  Our prayer time was and is an important part of what we do.

But maybe the best thing about our afterschool program was the relationship building that we experienced.  I love getting to know these kids and offering them a safe place where they could just hang out.  Sometimes it could get a little loud, a little rowdy (these are kids after all) but more often than not it was a good place for them to be.  A good place for our volunteers to be.

After two years I can safely say that the VMC is a good place, period.  And while it is a place where paper airplanes are made and thrown, it is a place where, by God's grace, we are learning to fly.