Kyle Walden, Youth Intern at Casa Linda
I am Kyle Walden, a Project Transformation intern working with the youth at Casa Linda United Methodist Church. I am currently studying Psychology and Plan II at the University of Texas at Austin.
The first two weeks of summer camp have been filled with many experiences already. Although those experiences include frustrations because we are dealing with youth that are struggling between their elementary selves and developing high school selves, I already love these kids dearly. I hope that this summer brings opportunities to love these youth more completely through fun times, budding discussions, and vulnerability.
What struck me about this summer internship is all 100 interns have given two months of their year to pour their time and energy and attention into the children and youth of these communities, sacrificing family vacation time, corporate internship time, and even recharge time. We have given ourselves physically and financially to this organization. Now the real part to maintain is being emotionally and spiritually invested in the mission of Project Transformation: “to support underserved children and families.”
In all the outpouring of energy that I have been struggling to put forth in these first two weeks, the introvert inside of me sometimes craves something a bit more intimate and calm.
One of my youth, Omar, wanted to play a board game and he chose checkers. I taught him how to play, reminding him of the rules, and we went on to play. I went into it thinking I would have to hold off, but he surprised me and started taking my checkers without remorse. So we played checkers during recess that day and his smile and laughs revealed that he loved it.
On Thursday, we had the gym, which is always stressful and hectic because there is a soccer ball, two basketballs, and a Frisbee in play. Despite the excitement and games, and to my surprise, Omar wanted to play checkers with me anyway. So I ran upstairs and got the game board and we set it up on the gym floor to the side of all the activity. We enjoyed a couple of games, laughing and grunting as we took each other’s pieces one by one. A quiet youth, Neri, came over and said, “Wow, it is really calm over here. It’s very nice over here.”
At this moment I realized how stark the difference in scenes there was in the gym: the shouting and commotion in the center of the gym was neighbored by a little game of checkers. And I loved it. Against the odds of the commotion, I found a moment to enjoy with Omar in a calm game of checkers in spite of the craziness of recess. My hope is that this summer, there will be moments of closeness and stillness that happen in the midst of the fun because in these lie deeper relationships. And within this growth, authentic love may be experienced from God, through me, to these youth.