My assignment as an Augustinian Volunteer is at St. Patrick’s Grade School, as the Physical Education and Technology teacher. A couple of days ago, I was having a conversation with some of the faculty at St. Patrick’s and we were discussing some of the best sports movies. One of my favorites is Field of Dreams. In the movie a farmer from Iowa hears God’s call to turn part of his farm into a baseball field. So, the farmer gives his service to God and creates a baseball field within his corn field. Once the field is complete the most extraordinary thing happens: “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and other baseball greats emerge from the corn to play the game again. By following God’s call, the farmer was able to make something plain and ordinary (his cornfield) into something truly special.
Now for those of you who do not know, St. Patrick’s is in a developing area in San Diego, California surrounded by coffee shops, up and coming apartments, restaurants, taco stands, and of course breweries. Within the middle of all of that, is the small gated campus of St. Patrick’s. Much to my surprise there is no central hallway where classrooms are lined up facing each other. Being from the Midwest, that is the only structure for a school building I thought existed. Instead students exit their classroom and head outside to go to the restroom, the offices, or another classroom if need be. Another unique aspect of St. Patrick’s is that there is in fact no gymnasium or field house. Students have PE and recess in the school parking lot. This presents a rare challenge that each volunteer must adapt to each year. It is always fun setting up games where you use “blue parking space versus the white parking space” as reference points. Another task of the PE teacher is often recess monitoring and at St. Patrick’s students have recess twice a day. So, by the time your service year is complete, you have essentially become the master of that little parking lot.
Throughout my time here, I have seen many beautiful things take place on that parking lot. I have seen underdogs launch game winning hits in tee ball just as the class was coming to an end. I have witnessed epic comebacks in our very own St. Pat’s March Madness Tournament. I’ve seen stellar throws, kicks, shots, and blocks in any sport you could name throughout this year. I also saw a lot of moments that I had not anticipated. I remember seeing the school’s star eighth grade athlete run around gleefully with a group of kindergartners playing tag; all of them with big smiles on their faces. I have seen a horde of students rush to the aid of another student who had recently fallen on the pavement whether that student was in their grade or not. I also watched two brothers, one in kindergarten, the other in first grade, spend EVERY recess kicking the ball back and forth to each other laughing and smiling the entire time.
St. Pat’s is unlike anything else. It is where an ordinary parking lot turns into something extraordinary. As my year here wraps up, I will never forget the time I spent on my own field of dreams.
San Diego, CA 2017-2018