Congratulations to June Foster! She won the “What’s Your Story” necklace. (June happens to be another WhiteFire Publishing author. Learn more about her HERE).
I did my internship in the Dominican Republic with my good buddy Tim Krauss.
Now, you need to know something about Tim. He’s a Peter Pan. My sister (the counselor) has this theory that the world has a few Peter Pan types. People who are loved by everyone. Everyone. Did you get that? Everyone. And these Peter Pan’s can get away with anything simply by the virtue of being them. That’s Tim. Also, Peter Pan types can motivate people to do anything (like Tom Sawyer getting other kids to paint the fence for him). That, also, is Tim.
I’ve known Tim for almost 20 years (yipes!). In those 20 years I have learned that Tim is capable of making me forget the anxious, safety first, self doubting person I am. He has led me into crazy places to do crazy things. He has also convinced me (and others) to do what really is impossible.
What’s my story? It’s about a time Tim led me into battle. A battle against a basketball court.
Part of my two month long internship was to hang out with the mission teams that came down to work. You know. Groups that come for a week to lay brick on a house, dig a hole for a foundation, mix cement on the ground.
Our first few groups had a variety of people. Men, woman, teens. Big, muscular, small.
One group, though, had a few guys (maybe 2) and several girls. Cute girls. Young girls. Cheerleaders. I am not kidding.
“This is going to be an easy week,” I thought. “Cleaning. Painting. Easy.”
And it was.
“We’re going to Monti Christi,” Tim told us one day. “It’s up north and almost to Haiti. We are going to lay cement for a basketball court.”
He told us that cement mixers would be on site, so we wouldn’t have to mix it on the ground with shovels. Easy. Let a big machine do the work. Several men from the church were going to help out. Great. It would make the day go fast. We’d be done and headed back to Santiago before dinner.
Well. That’s what I thought.
And that’s what the mission team thought.
“Today is a day for champions,” Tim said.
We packed ourselves into the vans and the pick-up truck and took off.
On the ride, Tim turned to me.
“When I say it’s going to be ‘a day for champions’ I mean that we are going into battle,” he said.
I laughed, without amusement. I laughed with fear.
“We’re laying an Olympic size basketball court today. And once we start pouring that cement, we can’t stop until it’s done.” His eyes twinkled. “This is going to be a great day.”
I turned and looked at the cheerleaders. They giggled at something. Their little t-shirt sleeves were rolled up and held in place on their shoulders with cute, pink ribbons.
“They have no idea what is about to happen to them,” I thought.
We were taking a cheerleading squad into war.
It was going to be the most physically demanding day of my life.
We arrived at Monti Cristi when it was still morning. Yet, it was already pretty hot. A good sized lizard stood, watching us enter the church compound where the basketball court was to be.
I wanted to kick the lizard. He looked so smug.
I looked at the rectangle of wood that would soon be filled with oozing cement. It didn’t look that big. We could do it.
Two cement mixers whirred and spun, blending the water and powder together. A generator hummed, feeding power to the mixers. Men were already at work, pouring bags full of cement powder and buckets of water into the mixers. Buckets and wheelbarrows full of cement moved through the compound to be poured into the forms.
The more time I spent watching the men work, the more I realized how hard the day would be.
I gathered the cheerleaders.
“Girls, you have the most important job,” I said.
They nodded their heads. I think they were scared.
“See that jug of water?” I pointed. “You just keep filling cups with that water and bring it to us. All day. Okay?”
They smiled. Relieved.
“And tell people that they’re doing a good job. All day. Water and cheering…er…encouragement.”
This is where I wish this was fiction. Because, if it was, I’d have the girls form a pyramid right there on the dirt.
Then, I found my job.
Some of the men from our group were hefting bags of cement powder, carrying them to the mixers. But they weren’t moving quickly enough. They needed more people to carry. I looked at the bags. 43. Okay. Yeah. I can pick up 43 pounds. No problem.
I watched one of the guys lift the bag to his shoulder. He grimaced from the effort.
“Whimp,” I thought.
I lifted from the knees, swinging the first bag on my shoulder.
“I am a champion,” I repeated.
The men around me looked in my direction, mouths gaped.
“What? They’ve never seen a woman lift 40 some pounds?” I thought. “Next time, I’ll carry two.”
Well, I couldn’t lift two. But I did pick up and carry those bags all day. 15 hours.
At one point, Tim walked over to me.
“You’re kicking that cement’s butt!” he said.
I worked harder.
By the end of the day, I could no longer feel my arms. No matter. At least I couldn’t feel the weight of the bags anymore. And we were so close to finishing the basketball court. So. Close.
And we did finish.
The cheerleaders brought one more round of water. Those girls never lost their pep that day. The men mixing the cement were all gray. We couldn’t see anyone’s skin color under the powder. And we were all exhausted.
I sat on the ground for the first time all day. Then realized that I wouldn’t be able to get myself back up. All the strength in my arms was completely gone. I couldn’t even lift my hands off my lap. A few of the guys from our group had to help me.
On the way home, we stopped at a gas station to find something to eat.
“I can’t believe you carried around those bags all day,” Tim said.
“Eh. They were only 40 pounds or so,” I answered.
“No. They were 40 some kilograms.”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“Susie, those bags were 95 pounds each,” Tim said.
And, so, my poor math skills paid off again. Had I known that the bags were so heavy, I wouldn’t have been able to do the work. In fact, a week later, I tried to lift a bag that was the same size and was unable to.
It was a super strength reserved only to be used on a day for champions.
Tell me…what’s your story? Have you ever experienced a Day for Champions?