This Spring wrapped another fantastic semester volunteering with the Young Storytellers Foundation. YSF is a charity organization in Los Angeles where failing actors, writers and musicians work with inner-city kids in screenwriting. Over the course of ten weeks, students develop a five-page script. At the end of the semester, their work is performed by actors in front of the entire school. It’s a rewarding, challenging and fun program for students and mentors. It’s also the only place in L.A. where I can have in-depth conversations about soccer.
I look forward to my weekly-YSF session with glee. I come prepared with my notebook, laptop and updated scoreboard from La Liga. I have to keep my soccer fanaticism a secret all week, but when I volunteer with kids in L.A. I can finally have a meaningful debate over Lionel Messi being better than Cristiano Ronaldo.
No one at work appreciates my opinions on Manchester United’s recent match with Everton. But if Chicharito has a good game and I’m volunteering with kids in L.A.? Oh man, it’s on! We go to war over the Mexican National Team. Whether Dos Santos will rediscover his game in time for the next round of World Cup qualifying. If Ochoa is the best keeper in Mexico. The best games of Rafa Marquez. These things make me sound like I’m from another planet when I talk about them at work. But with your average 8-year-old in Los Angeles? It’s my ticket to the clubhouse.
It’s important to volunteer with your spare time. It helps enhance your local community and allows you to connect with new groups of people. That said, I volunteer for the entirely selfish reason of fighting about match-fixing in Italian football.
The only other place to engage such a conversation is the Internet, but I’ll get crushed in debates with those losers. The kids I volunteer with aren’t allowed to have smart phones at school and I come prepared. Little Pablo might say something like, “My favorite player on Barcelona is Pique.” And then, bam, I destroy him with a statistical analysis of Pique’s recent performance. “Oh yeah? Well he conceded five corner kicks and picked up a yellow card against Valencia. Is he your favorite player now?”
The joke is on me when Pablo comes back with, “Considering he lead Barcelona to back-to-back La Liga titles and manned the back-line in the World Cup and Euros, yeah, he’s pretty good.”
It’s only around the kids during my volunteer sessions that it’s perfectly normal to have my walls covered in English Premier League posters. When I wear soccer jerseys to work, I get a lecture. When I wear them to YSF, I get a high-five. When I show-off my face paint at work, I’m called retarded. At school, I compare my war paint to the young writers. My girlfriend keeps telling me to grow up, but my buddies at school consider me the coolest guy to pretend to be in fifth grade.
We’re midway through World Cup qualifying, with the grand tournament slated for next summer. It’s important to have these debates any way you can and I’m lucky enough to find classrooms full of children who validate my opinions. Next time you volunteer, I recommend you too try and find ways for your time to give back to you.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, is about a kid and his slave going on an adventure through the bastion of racial tolerance known as pre-Civil War Missouri. It’s the sequel to the Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Watch here or at High School Summary.