i was late for sunday supper again. those mid-afternoon sunday naps always get me. its not that i have to be there before sunday supper starts but i enjoy catching up with some of my street friends that come to take in the community meal together. regardless of the food placed in front of me (which is usually pretty tasty), its always a good time with interesting conversations.
i hadnt seen or talked with leonard in quite a while, but there he was, face buried in a hearty serving of pasta as i came in the doors. he beckoned me over and i sat down across from him.
‘i made myself almost $30 in bottles today!’
leonard’s good hand is occupied with his digger (fork) and goes to high-five with his crippled arm. theres not much of a clap but it doesnt seem to bother either of us and we laugh. oh man, do i laugh when im with leonard!
i ask him where he has been and why i havent seen him around. hes been hiding. leonard gets bullied at some of the hangout spots in the city. for the life of me i cant see why aside from him simply being an easy target, with a bad leg and arm he has had since birth. hes a very quiet and humble migmaw man who usually keeps to himself, though has no problem holding conversation with anyone who wants to talk.
i dont like bullies. when i was in grade two i was bullied by an older boy named yohan or something like that. he never had the satisfaction of beating me up but for two years he chased me home from school and sent enough threats through other kids to make me live in fear. hopefully yohan gave up his bullying ways.
leonard doesnt want to tell me who is bullying him. he doesnt want it to get worse. i try to tell him that i can help fix the situation but he wont budge. he tells me its his battle to fight and he will fight it alone. im not about to argue with my friend whom i havent seen in a long time. i tell him to come over to my place later and grab a bag full of bottles. a big grin comes over his face and says ‘thanks’.
street soccer starts. we have tons of people out again. we field 7 teams for the second sunday night in a row. after coach val leads the players through some warm ups, we are ready to play.
i decide to give my ankle a try and put myself with dave, paul and nick. dave was one of our original players in the beginning. he sees the game better than anyone else that comes out to play. unfortunately the street life has a strong pull on his life. when he is stronger and winning the battle, he is usually at street soccer. when he is weaker, he is hard to find. right now hes healthy and engaged in street soccer every week.
dave was my first friend from the street here in halifax so he has a special place in my heart.
paul was one of our finalists when we were deciding who to send to mexico city for the homeless world cup. skinny as a rake, long legs that start at his neck and a huge passion for the game. we finally got paul a pair of shorts so he doesnt have to wear his jeans anymore. he is self-conscious about his skinny legs and begins to balk at wearing his new shiny shorts. i tell him my legs are skinny too and that he and i can anchor team chicken legs. hes in and on go the shorts.
it was nicks first time to street soccer. nick looked to be about 19 or 20, full of energy and what appeared to be a mental handicap. when it came time to play 3-on-3, nick wasnt sure he wanted to play. he said everyone moved so fast and he didnt think he could keep up.
he was right. the games did go pretty fast and he had a tough time keeping up with the action but he played. he played his little heart out, too. he made mistakes but kept on playing. after making a good pass to dave who was able to score, he celebrated by shooting his little arms up in the air as if he had just won a very important game.
maybe it was. at least to him.
dave was like a big brother with nick. he took him under his wing for the evening and coached him on little things he could do. on the floor together, dave tried to get nick involved and encouraged him whether he failed or succeeded. safe to say, dave made nicks night memorable.
while we usually cut games off at 8pm, the energy is high and no one wants to stop. players are playing hard, teamwork is at a premium and everyone is getting better.
i think we may have to start playing more than one night a week.
after soccer, dave came out for all-you-can lasagna with a few of us. i told him that i appreciated how great he was with nick. he wouldnt hear anything of it, saying that helping nick out was what he was supposed to do. he didnt feel he deserved anymore recognition than anyone else. he was just being himself.
well, since you wouldnt take the ‘thank you’, dave, ill thank you here where everyone else can see your big heart. thanks for making our little sports community that much better, dave.
just another sunday on the east coast.