Little did I know that when I traveled to Tanzania in 2017 my whole life would change in more ways than one. While I had the amazing opportunity to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa, it was what happened off the mountain that stole a piece of my heart.
Before and after climbing the mountain, my team and I served at a local school, Stella Maris. We spent a few days stepping in as teachers and playing with the kids. That alone was a gift to us all. The kids are nothing but smiles and giggles and they love to hold hands. As a gift to the school, TruthFC donated a duffle bag full of soccer balls. Two of the balls were set aside and it was my hope that I would be able to trade one of those soccer balls for one of the soccer balls I had seen online many times, a ball made of trash.
It wasn’t until our last day at the school that I had my first and only opportunity to make a trade as such. There was a group of young boys that had made a soccer ball out of black plastic bags and green cloth. When they saw that I had brought a ball of my own, they asked if they could play with it. While they played with my ball, I held onto the ball they made. The ball was so small it fit into the palm of my hands. I had no idea that these balls made of trash we so small. Eventually, the boys came back and wanted their ball back. I handed their ball to them as they handed me mine. Some of them asked if they could have the ball. I told them, “No, but I will make a trade with you.” We discussed trading balls but the boys ultimately said, “No.” I didn’t get my trade.
I was so confused as to why these boys would want to hold onto a ball made of trash when they had the opportunity for something new. I didn’t think a ball made of trash would have so much meaning to them. Then as I looked around, I began to realize why that ball had so much meaning to them. That little ball of trash probably took them hours to make between finding the material and then taking the time to make it. It was an item that would fall apart quickly, but would provide them with so much joy to play the game of their dreams. It was an item that meant a great deal to them despite being made of trash.
Then something extraordinary happened. At the end of my last day at the school, I saw the boys whispering to each other and looking over at me and my ball. As I began to walk out of the school compound to return to the hotel, they waved at me and held out their ball made of trash and pointed to my ball and said “We want to trade.” So I gave them my ball and they gave me theirs. I have never seen a group of boys express so much excitement over receiving a soccer ball. They were yelling, cheering, and clapping each other on their backs. It was a moment of pure joy and excitement.
As I walked away with my “new” ball, tears welled up in my eyes. I was speechless to have received such a meaningful gift. When I went looking for this trade, I didn’t realize the impact it would have on me. It made me understand that at what first looked to me as a ball made of trash was actually so much more. This little ball now sits in my bedroom and every time I look at it it reminds me to be humble. It has taught me that not all things new are better, that it’s not what the item is made of that matters, and that what I may have thought was a “good” trade will be the most meaningful trade I have ever made. This little ball made of trash reminds me of grace the Lord gives us and how He loves even the little balls made of trash and wants us to love them too.