Intern Journal: Dawn's Embrace

I’ve always been something of a morning person. A quiet time for reflection, reading, caffeine, meditation for those of such admirable initiative, checking last night’s box scores, and all the luxuries of that misty, yawning interim period before the day and all its trappings come completely into focus. Early morning is more than the chill of living in a mind-fog, though. I believe the greatest gift of all so generously provided by our first hours of quasi-consciousness is the brief window for musing, hoping, planning, and creating the path that we might walk in the fresh set of hours to come, hours that are undefined and so limitless in promise, an expansive frontier with which our imaginations can roam unchecked until at least 7:30 when our realities and obligations might begin to clamor (usually in the kitchen). Even if the day never turns out as cool as it might have looked in our brain, these waking dreams are well worth it for me.

Here in Nablus, the early hours have shown themselves to be even more pleasant, even more invigorating. The call to prayer from the muezzin, the laid back white light calmly creeping over the hills a bit earlier each day, and the parades of four year-old children on their way to the TYO core program make manifest what Adam so aptly called “The Joy!” No alarm clock needed; no weighty gravity pushing you to stay in bed.

The Core kids rock for a number of reasons. Firstly, as it turns out, these children are super, super small, and that’s a funny and entertaining concept to me in itself. They have their own embryo of a social order, their own protocols for interaction, both of which are ingrained with intentional and unintentional humor. Beyond any Darwinian impulse to continue our line, I think the chance alone to watch toddler excitement, occasional toddler fear, and the transformation of both these emotions into smiles and laughter and singing is reason enough to one day have children. If you don’t involuntarily have a smile on your face in watching this kind of procession (I always get a special kick out of the tenuous sense of balance that little kids have when they walk and run, always teetering on the edge of tipping over before managing to find their equilibrium), you’re straight ice.

So these young girls and boys jump-start the early hours without fail, rain, sleet, or snow. By afternoon, older students begin rolling in. Amongst my responsibilities here at TYO is to lead and direct the Big Brothers' Club, comprised of a selection of twelve to fourteen year-olds from the local neighborhood and the four refugee camps that dot the city’s landscape. Along with an incredible crew of translators and volunteers from the local university, I am working to engender self-confidence, self-control, and a capacity to trust and work in teams amongst this crew of young teenagers. For the most part, we are using the vehicle of team basketball and team soccer to help nurture such values as well as to create an environment where the students can feel safe, can feel a genuine union and connection to one another, and can feel the pride that comes with membership on a sports team.

The first three sessions have given me great encouragement. We’ve done lots of trust and hype-building exercises, introduced them to a good few dribbling and passing drills, and finished each and every session with the most raucous team huddles we can. Despite having only just departed our journey together, I have already seen leaders and a collective strength emerge, auspicious signs to say the least. On Monday, all players and coaches signed written contracts binding them to our team ethos of respect, brotherhood, risk-taking, and fun times, and we will be deciding on our official team name by week’s end.  Check back next week for photos and progress.

Until then, stay fly.

- Colin

Colin is an intern at TYO Nablus.