Monday, July 28, 2014

The Beauty of a Soccer Ball

One of the things that I plan to have plenty of for next year's Guatemala trip is soccer balls.  Soccer or, futbol, as it called in every country in the world except for the US, is less of a game and more of a way of life.  While riding around the Guatemalan countryside I  noticed people of all ages kicking around a ball, mechanics taking a break in the tiny patch of dirt outside their garage by playing a heated, shirtless match of 1:1, two tween age boys kicking a ball around on a patch of grass while a toddler kicked at her own ball in and out around them, a quick game timed in between oncoming cars on cobblestone streets, bare feet, flip flops, sandals, it didn't matter.  I saw many basketball courts, not one had an intact net on the hoop and all were being used as cement futbol fields.  The boys trying to impress the girls, the girls who really, really wanted to play, the ones who joined in, the little kids and the big, just drop, kick, and play.

For those little ones trying to kick around a ball as big as them or a flimsy piece of rubberized plastic not meant to be kicked, I would like to bring small sized balls that a bigger kid would be ashamed to use.  For the girls that wants to get out there, but can't move past the boys, I would like to bring bright pink, purple, princess and Barbie soccer balls.  The gender gap was as big as I thought that it would be, but there were girls out playing, even ones older than age 10.  Younger girls were fierce, especially when outnumbered by boys.

Culturally the power of a soccer ball is enviable, something so simple to light up the eyes, make the heart pound, invite a moment of bonding, community, friendship, that is the beauty of a soccer ball.  I believe that everyone can be captivated by this level of simplicity when it signifies something greater like connection and community.  While I don't think that those elements are missing from our culture, I do believe that they are often overlooked.

It is easier to be consumed by activities and gadgets, both are time consuming, they don't mean to be solitary, but often are.  The further away from feeling connected that people feel, the more they seem to fill their lives with trying to do more to force connection to happen.  In the process, the gift of acting on the opportunity to use something as simple as a ball to make a connection is lost.  Making things more complicated than they are becomes culturally acceptable.

 I realize that I am idealizing just a little bit, but I am doing so to make a point.  Children begin life hardwired for things that are simple to give like communication.  It isn't like it is all that different for older children and adults, it is the relationship to things that changes, specifically that more of them are needed which complicates life, allowing less time for real time interactions, which leads to isolation and lack of community.  Instead of finding an app for that, look for what brings people together in real time, the answer isn't all that complicated.

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