They had me surrounded. I couldn’t have escaped even if I had wanted to. It was 3pm and we were waiting in the school’s huge gymnasium as the meet dragged on. The girls that I was in charge of were off in a less-populated corner, practicing cartwheels and decorating the bananas their mothers had packed for them with the sharpies the same women had so kindly packed as well. It was the boys that needed supervision. CONSTANT supervision. In between giving them permission to go to the bathroom (they were not to leave my sight without express permission) and telling them to please get off of him and unwrap that towel from around his head, I sat down for a moment at one of the cafeteria tables scattered throughout the gym.
They were there in an instant. Three of them clambered nimbly onto the white table and parked themselves in front of me. One of them laid widthwise across the table, stomach down, head and feet hanging over each edge of the table. The other several meandered in slow laps around the table, stopping every couple of rounds to make sure I knew they still existed.
None of them were racing for at least an hour, and since none were exchanging blows or running sprints across the busy gym, I settled into my chair to relax for a moment. A small nine-year-old with dark eyes was crouching on the ground on the other side of the table; he had spent the better part of an hour collecting the orange rings from mini Gatorade bottles and he was now laying them out on the floor. Another nine-year-old, having spent the $5 from his father on pizza and pretzels, was sitting on the table, drawing extensive and incoherent messages to himself on his left forearm. I thought for a moment how thankful his parents would be that his art was done in a dying bic pen, not the red sharpie his sister had used on the banana. Another boy, recently turned ten, sidled up to my chair, arms clasped earnesly behind his back, “I’m going to annoy you,” he annouced solemnly. “Not possible,” I told him, which I realized seconds afterward must have sounded very much like a challenge to his young ears. I was distracted from his repetitive- and harmless- questioning by the appearance of yet another young boy, this one a solid 11 years old. He reminded me again how much he disliked me, and I reminded him yet again how I knew this was false, simply due to how much time he spent following me around, telling me how much he disliked me.
I ducked briefly under the table, where mr. upside-down smiled passively at me, nodding emphatically when I asked if he was alright. When I resurfaced, three boys knocked heads in an effort to occupy the space directly in front of me. As I listened intently to three different tales of 4th grade humor, a sudden sense of rightness blossomed inside of me. Surrounded by small people, all clamboring in one way or another for my attention, I felt just right. As if God was saying, “this is where you belong- this is how you can glorify me”. I knew in that moment that I was doing what God wanted me to do, and it felt good.