Sunday, October 25, 2015

Just Say Yes! Waking Up & Transforming Our Hearts / #skateboarding #awareness #youth #Scalzi #socialgood

It was made clear to me last night in the darkness of Scalzi skatepark in Stamford, Connecticut why there is hesitancy to bring in night lights. “The crowds it would bring…” I realized that the skatepark would be inundated with people from far-flung places. As skateparks go, Scalzi is definitely not top-of-the-line, yet it is one of the best in the region along with the one in New York City just outside of Chelsea piers. 

Last night I stayed longer than usual and saw the park transform, and not for the better. A small crowd of middle school boys and girls drinking, smoking and going into the bushes.  I remember picking up used condom wrappers outside the skatepark fence, leaflets talking about the spread of AIDS and I wondered what would happen to them if they were pushed out and a new crowd would come in. Where would these kids go? What would happen to them? Surely, they would find some other place to party and unwind. So I stayed a bit longer in the darkness with them practicing my skating taking tips from a new skateboard acquaintance who seemed to separate himself somewhat from the children. 

My heart was sad. One of the young boys called one of the girls, who seemed no more than 14 years old, a slut. Being a father, this is hard for me to take in. At the same time, I am relatively new to this skatepark community and am not going to come in with a tough & direct approach on these kids who have been left to their own devices. Looking at young woman straight in the eyes until she finally brought her gaze to me, I said to her, “You are not a slut!” This was countered quietly and it was voiced that she was indeed a slut. I stayed quiet. Perhaps she was, yet she is also a human being, she is also a child and I know too well that people can change for the better and wrong patterns stand to be broken when we come with lovingkindness. Almost immediately, one of her friends, I can’t tell which for reason of the darkness, perhaps even the same one who uttered the insult said that she was not a slut. I rejoiced in my heart.

We Have To Start Somewhere

 There is work to be done. My sleeves are rolled up and my skateboard is in my hand and my heart is on my sleeve. These kids do not need someone arresting them and throwing away the key. That fixes nothing. These kids need better examples. The idea of social responsibility clicked deeper inside of me. Somewhere in me sadness and courage mixed with compassion. Calmly, humbly I approached the children who were breaking glass on the floor and littering with stolen goods. In the most non-threatening, friendly voice I could muster, I said I was the one who was cleaning up the garbage in the mornings, and if possible, that they keep the park clean. One of the boys responded in a calm voice to me affirmatively that they would keep it clean. I will see this morning what the skatepark looks like. They are just kids. After some time, I said my goodbyes and… I said to them, "God bless you guys."  I was happy that the bunch responded positively with their tone to this and also bid me farewell. They could have stayed silent to me. They don't know me.

On my way home I realized that I want to be a presence there at night, as much as I can. I don’t have all the answers and I am wondering what I can do. I went home and prayed. I have a daughter and it pains me to see children live like this. You don’t see this in the more affluent neighborhoods. It would cause a ruckus.

We still need those night lights to transform the park. My goal was three-fold, but now I have added to it another goal. Will it be achieved? Not on my own power. This will require a team effort. It takes many hearts to turn the tide around. I would like to bring awareness to the parents with children who have executive function deficits, ADHD or special needs, such as autism, that skateboarding is a magnificent therapeutic activity for the development of their children. With the growing success of this goal a new influx of ‘locals’ would be venturing Scalzo skatepark. This would begin to crowd out skateboarders with greater experience levels and most probably bring ire upon me, hence the night lights would create space and time for the skateboarding community to enjoy the facility, rather than be jam-packed into only using the park during natural light hours. As you can imagine, as winter sets in, there is less and less time to skate. My third goal is to be a help in revitalizing what the park can be for non-special needs skateboarders. Things are in motion already. Just a few days ago I made a new friend, Chris, a father and skateboarder. He mentioned that he new of some talented, busy artist who he’d ask to see if he’d be interested in painting murals on the skatepark walls. No promises. This would be most awesome. I have painted the park graffiti over with white paint and it looks hideous:), yet better than before. The murals would paint a story! Storytelling! How wonderful I thought. This goal, would be out of my hands. I can do my part with my constant presence, by ensuring no distasteful graffiti goes on those walls, by picking up the garbage of the children, by being a teacher of the heart, which is my fourth goal. :) 

We each have our talents and together we can pack a master punch if we work together. I envision with others tournaments, or at least some form of organized events that offers something to typical skateboarders, and those with special needs...  perhaps an expansion of the park with an inverted ramp.

I am open to better ideas. Let this not be about me, but for our youth, for our community.  We got this if we want it.

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