Joyce Dueker asked me to write down some thoughts on why I've taken 20 months off work and to what extent, if any, TouchDown played a role in my decision.
A Little About Me and Who Connected Me with TouchDown Camp
For those of you who don't know me, 99% of you, my name is Jim Dillard and I lived most of my life in SF Bay Area. To date myself I used to play in the orchards that have long since been Apple's Cupertino headquarters.
Back in 2010 I asked God to help me find the "right" volunteering opportunity. Within 3 weeks I ended up sitting next to Joyce at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church and you can guess what happened: Joyce was Joyce :) I can still visualize exactly where I was driving home on Highway 101 thinking "Really, God....at-risk youth? That is who I'm to volunteer for??"
Jump to my first TD camp back in 2011. It is Thursday and all the children were at Fair Oaks Elementary -- I happened to be taking penalty kicks (soccer) with some of the older boys. One child just scored for the third consecutive time and this was, by far, the best shot of the day. The conversation following his goal:
Me: "Whoa! Top corner...nice shot. So, how long have you played competitive soccer."
Child: "Whadda mean?"
Me: "You know...playing soccer on a team. AYSO, CYSA?"
Child: "Never played soccer on a team before. My Mom couldn't afford it."
Although I'd witnessed poverty and lack on my surf trips to Mexico and El Salvador this was the first time I experienced it with a child whom I personally cared for who lived within a 10 minute drive. Little did I realize his nonchalant comment would impact me and my life. And now be the norm of those whom I work with.
Fast forward to May, 2017. Here in Charleston, SC, there is an academic gap: the state's best elementary school, #1 out of 620, and worst elementary school, #620 out of 620, are just 6 miles apart. I'm witnessing firsthand how many at-risk, or underprivileged, youth are inadvertently* being funneled down a path whereby they will transition from at-risk youth to disconnected youth: those aged 16-24 years old who are neither in school nor working.
The Bay Area is no different and the need for people to invest their time and / or money as a means to narrow the academic / opportunity gap is greater than ever. Imagine a child in second grade unable to count by 10s to 100 or pronounce words like 'that' while reading aloud. At what point does dropping out of school become more enticing compared to the frustration of staying in school?
For those up to date on governmental policies coming down the pike it is now apparent that those with the fewest resources will be most negatively impacted. Some businesses and people in the Bay Area are stepping up yet is it enough? Unlikely. Can't do money or time? Then utilize those unproductive moments while waiting in a line, at a stoplight, or where ever, to say a prayer.
Lastly -- and I am biased here especially being a white male -- but the group that needs to step up the most are white males. According to all studies white males will earn more money for doing the same amount work as any other group. If we make more than others then we should give more than others. Yes, I realize males often are the breadwinners and / or seemingly don't have the extra time and funds but just look around and you'll realize we possess more than enough.
And for the single guys out there contemplate this: 60% to 80% of the people you will volunteer with are women.