Yesterday morning a violent thunderstorm with grape and ping pong-sized hail roared through our area. I was with the SCJ community at morning prayer when it hit and you literally could not hear the words the others were praying because of the noise on the roof and against the building. A few screens got ripped up, but we didn’t have any broken windows. Flowers that had bloomed were smashed down and the trees on campus were pummeled, leaving a thick carpet of green leaves covering the road and playground.
The clearing storms gave way to a couple of festive activities. We have a “Big Sisters” program, in which our high school girls help mentor our younger girls in grades 1-5. They gathered for a picnic in back of the Crane (high school girls) Home. I got to be an “honorary” big sister to help with the relay races where students balanced a balloon between their foreheads and raced an obstacle course around the yard. After a cookout, Maija had a couple of piñatas hanging from the apple tree in the back yard, and the little girls put a blindfold on and swung away with a broomstick until candy and small toys rained on the ground for the group to dive into.
We hosted a 6th– 8th grade dance in the school gym for both our St. Joseph’s students and kids from town. In lieu of an entry fee, we asked people to bring food items to donate to a local charity or make a freewill cash offering. Towards the end of the night we had a cheer contest to determine where the food and money collected at the door would go. I closed my eyes and listened carefully as three worthwhile charities were announced. The loudest cheer came for the Missouri River Crisis Center here in Chamberlain. They shelter victims of domestic violence, and I know that some of our own students have spent some time there. Together, students collected 132 food items and $42 from the door will go to help those in need. Proceeds from the concession stand were also contributed to the cause.
Doug, the DJ, took requests under one condition – if you asked for a song, you also had to get out and dance. That was a clever ploy to increase the number of dancers on the floor. A fair sized group danced in the middle of the floor, but far more youth were plastered against the wall, wanting to ask or be asked to dance, but too shy to do so. I noticed a few boyfriend/girlfriend pairs not dancing, but holding hands and walking around the gym. With our students interacting more regularly with Chamberlain youth, I noticed a little more interaction and friendships forming with each event.
Another program that helps our students interact with kids from the community has been the Explorers Club, which was a pilot program for St. Joseph’s this year. The Explorers Club teaches junior high boys about responsibility and giving back to the community. These young men were engaged in projects like shoveling snow and raking leaves for the elderly, and raising money for charities in town through car washes. They worked on the gentlemanly art of learning how to tie a tie and dress a little fancier once in a while. Today at mass Doug, the leader of the Explores Club, came to honor Adrian, William and Isaiah from our eighth grade class for the contributions they have made.