As part of my job as an elementary school family outreach specialist, and also because I like hooping, I decided to start up an after school hooping club for the students. Yesterday afternoon was our first meeting. 40 children in kindergarten through fifth grade turned out. Some brought their own hoops, and one of the moms who decided to stick around (thankfully -- they were a huge help!) also brought her own hoop. I'd say that's a good start, huh?
It was pretty overwhelming. This was not helped by the fact that we had to share the school gymnasium with another after school group which happened to be playing basketball. As a result, I had to forgo learning names, and could only discuss a slim set of behavior expectations before my voice started to go hoarse. So after I quit shouting over the sound of basketballs that there would be NO hitting/kicking/bopping one another with the hoop, and that there WOULD be respect/fun/helpfulness, we got down to business. I warmed the kids up with some Simon Says, which was fun, but also hard on the vocal chords, and then set 'em loose with the hoops.
Madness ensued. But it was fun madness. Even the perfectionista part of me could see that. Just messing around with hula hoops en masse was awesome for the kids, and delight was painted across most faces. As you might imagine, a bunch of the kids were already expert waist hoopers. I let those kids, especially the bigger and taller kids from the upper grades, play with my hoops, and I also showed them a few other moves to work on. With the kids who weren't quite as confident, I tried to show them how to save the hoop from falling.
After about 20 minutes of hooping free-for-all, I called the [massive] group of hoopers back together to play a game of musical hoops (I bet you can guess how that game is played!). Interestingly, nobody wanted to play. Everyone just wanted to hoop! I thought the kids would get bored just waist hooping (and then, later, I showed them a bit of hand hooping around the body), but they didn't. They were engrossed and joyful, and many of the participants got very creative. I saw lots of neck hooping, hooping while kneeling, vertical hooping, and more! It was fabulous.
The afternoon of hooping mania reminded me of my missions trip to Malaysia just over a year ago. As part of our work in Malaysia, my group spent a weekend at a Tamil (Hindu) orphanage. We planned and packed enough crafts, skits, games, and songs to entertain an army. When we arrived at the orphanage, however, all the kids wanted to do was play. I think we spent almost the entirety of our first day at the orphanage playing soccer and catch and jumping rope. That probably totals up to about four hours of free form play -- and the kids loved it. I can't tell you how many of the orphans begged me to "play skipping rope, auntie."
That's what yesterday's hooping club was like. I planned and outlined an hour of activities, only to realize that the kids wanted to simply hoop together -- and to be seen hooping. Kids that I've never met before kept running up asking me to watch them. I did, of course, and gladly.
The purity and simplicity of the afternoon, and the power inherent in that simplicity, was both surprising and blissful. I could not have planned anything better. It's a good thing God's got my back, because His agenda always far surpasses mine. The hooping club's kick-off -- and God, of course -- was, in a word, amazing.