The first week of anything can challenge us and even be difficult. My first week at AYM was no different. It was difficult, but just because something is difficult doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth doing. Our first week was worth any difficulties that we encountered, because we were able to serve the people in our community here in Asheville.
Our first week I took Northwest Presbyterian Church of Atlanta to 12 baskets and we helped serve the meal for the people who came in to eat. Almost immediately my group of 6 middle school boys saw that there was a chess set on their coffee tables at 12 baskets. They were all excited, most of them loved to play chess. They asked if they could play a game of chess and I told them that maybe if we had some time at the end of the day then they could. After that we started getting ready to serve the people coming in.
Once we were a little bit into our serving, a man named Andre came in and sat at the adult group leaders table. As he was talking with the adult group leader for a little while, he mentioned that he plays chess. The adult group leader told Andre that some of her youth were really wanting to play. I told one of the youth to go ahead and play Andre.
Andre is from Poland and when he moved to America he couldn’t find a job that would pay him a living wage. It turns out that Andre is an amazing chess player. One after another, he defeated the youth in chess. After every time Andre would win he would teach the kids some reasons that they lost. He would tell them complicated chess strategies. Eventually, after he had defeated everyone who wanted to play him, he told us about a special skill he has. He can play chess with his back turned to the board. The person playing him would call out their moves and he would tell us his move and we would move it for him. Andre then played one of the youth again doing this.
Andre and the kids got so much out of this experience, all because we were playing a game with him. In our program we talk about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In the hierarchy there is a section called “love and belonging.” That’s what those kids were giving to Andre— a sense of love and belonging. This is just one of the many things I’m excited to experience as the summer goes on.