Today I spent the day on the TCIS soccer field. We hosted an all league middle school jamboree at our school. There were soccer players and spectators everywhere on the campus. I spent the day on the sidelines of the field watching Becca play in four soccer games.
Throughout the day at the soccer jamboree I saw many of our TCIS middle school and high school dorm students hanging around either watching or participating in the soccer games. Some of our high school students were serving as coaches and assistant coaches of one of our six TCIS soccer teams.
As I stood on the sidelines watching game after game of soccer I had the chance to talk with lots of staff, students and even a few parents. At one point in the day I found myself talking with James, a senior that lives in our dormitory program here at TCIS. James is a Korean young man that I have gotten to know pretty well over the past year and a half that I have been at TCIS. I am his vice principal and I have seen him in my office a couple of times for less than desirable reasons. However, through it all we have maintained a good relationship and we often exchange a friendly "hello" in the hallways and around the school.
As I stood with James on the sidelines of the soccer field he was asking me about where I was from and what my home state in the USA was like. I told him about Idaho's deserts, farmland, mountains, rivers and beautiful lakes. He wondered why I would leave all that beauty to come to a place like South Korea. I told him that I had lived in Idaho for most of my life and had enjoyed Idaho's beauty but now I was enjoying the beauty, uniqueness and the people of South Korea.
James shared with me that because of his father's work (he is a foreign diplomat) he has never lived in the same place for more than three years. James has lived in some amazing places like France, Belgium, Germany, Vietnam, and South Africa. As I responded with awe at the exotic and varied places that James had lived he agreed that they were great places but he also commented that in some ways it wasn't so great. He said he never really was able to make any good friends during his growing up years and he really doesn't have a place in the world that he can call home. He said that even though he is ethnically Korean and speaks Korean he feels a bit out of place at times--he said that sometimes he doesn't understand the Korean jokes that his friends tell.
James asked me about where I lived in Daejeon and he asked me about what I do on the weekends when I am not working at school. I told him that on weekends I do a few things that need to get done, I go to church on Sunday mornings, and otherwise try to spend some time with my family. I told him that oftentimes on Saturdays I spend time with my daughters, Becca and Sarah. As an example, I told him that I had about a month of my Saturdays already booked because I was committed to watching Becca play soccer on those days.
James said, "I bet your daughter is really thankful that you watch her play soccer."
I said, "What?" (His comment caught me by surprise....in some ways it didn't register.)
James said, "I bet it really makes your daughter happy to have you come and watch her play soccer."
(I had really never thought about this. She has never said anything about me being there to watch her--but I know she appreciates me being there.)
As I stood there thinking about the comment, James preceded to tell me that in all his years of playing soccer--elementary, middle school and high school (and he is now a Senior) his parents had never seen him play in a single soccer game. He says his father is always too busy and his mother isn't interested in sports.
I said, "Wow, James, I'm sorry, that must be kinda tough."
He responded, "Yeah, everybody likes someone to come and watch them."
I told him that this Spring, during varsity soccer, I was going to contact him and tell him the day that I was going to attend the game for the single purpose of watching him play soccer.
James said, "I would really like that Mr. Roberts."
The TCIS varsity soccer season doesn't start for a few more months but when James hits the field to play in his final season of high school sports and he looks up at the spectators in the stands for someone cheering for him, this vice principal and.....friend, is going to be there.