The Shape N' Race for this year is over!
Those words have a magical sound! I really enjoy the race but it is nice when the entire process is finished.
The races wrap up in March but the process begins much earlier.
December means it is track inspection time, inventory cars, wheels, axles, shotgun-put for weight, schedule all the dates and rain dates & order the cars.
January brings the printing out of the instructions, rules and the templates. Talking it up with parents & boys, packing the individual kits, schedule "help" days, order the trophies. Then it is the first of the help days and having more boys than you had planned show up. As a bonus you get to eat pizza and wings while working on cars.
February takes us through two more work days, more talking up, another several pizzas, 150+ wings, 3 cases of Yoo-Hoo, a 27 hour long stint at church with Junior Leaders for the purpose of a Derby test day and Junior leader overnight all rolled into one. As a bonus that 27 hour stint introduces "Dumpster Diving" while it is snowing with Junior Leaders in the back of a recently closed FYE electronics store. Then order additional trophies to replace those that arrived broken because it looks like someone drove a forklift prong right through the box.
March brings car Due Day, last minute help to boys needing it, repairing a lot of cars played with too many times and finally, at long last, race day!
We race, eat some cupcakes, race a little more, give out a few trophies, politely deal with psycho-moms and derby-dads and then go home.
Then it is the Regional Finals where we race again, eat more snacks, give out more trophies. At long last, finally, another Shape N' Race season finished!
End of story. Right? Not always.
After the busyness, all the hours, the energy and effort, just when you think it is time to be "off" something drops right in front of you.
That something came Saturday.
A 9 year old, who just joined Stockade a couple weeks ago. It was obvious from the time Carl walked into Stockade that he needed "Guy Time". You can see it in a boy sometimes. They don't know how to play like a boy, roughhouse like boys do and too often they are wary of us adult men. Once Carl's mom heard about the derby she wanted him involved but had no knowledge, tools, time or someone to help the boy. By joining when he did he missed all the "help" days and only had a week to make a car. Carl was thrilled when we were able to schedule a some time to make it all happen.
During the time we spent working on the car the boy said little. Being new to the group he did not know me from anyone else and had nothing to say to me as I was just an old guy. I talked about the car, Stockade, and anything I could think of to keep things moving and he listened and worked on his car. It was tiring. My whole goal in all of this was for his car to not stink and race not awful.
It was easy to see that Carl never held a hammer, sandpaper, saw, spray paint or even set his eyes upon a Shape N' Race derby car before. The first time he spray painted without help he shot himself with blue paint since the can was facing the wrong way! The word of the day was "basic"! We worked, cut the car out, sanded, did work on the wheels, axles, added weight and painted the car all in an hour before a Stockade meeting. A week later we got together again and assembled all the pieces. It was a small block with wheels, painted 3 different colors with decals. A pretty basic car.
Race day came and surprisingly Carl actually won a speed trophy! He was thrilled and was beaming. He clutched that trophy as if it were made of real gold instead of gold painted plastic, he showed his Mom with the pride of an Olympic gold medalist. It was worth the work and I considered my job done for the year.
Next up, this past Saturday, were the Regional Races. There was the usual enthusiasm, excitement and energy that goes along with boys and parents from 6 or 7 Brigade units. Everything was there for a great morning of racing. The only thing that ended up missing were the 3 fewer points Carl needed to win a trophy! His car was respectable, he received a couple 1st places, a 2nd and then a 3rd. You know what, he was not disappointed. He had a great time hanging out with other boys and men. We raced, ate food and packed up to go home. It was a good regional race.
The funny thing was Carl almost didn't make the regionals because his Mom had to work and he had no way to get there. In fact his Mom was working all day and Carl needed to be with someone until later the afternoon. Like any of us would do, I offered to pick him up and hang out with him for the day. The other option, missing the race, wasn't something I wanted to see happen.
Unlike the first time we met to work on his car is seems like the kid talked all day about everything a 9 year old talks about. How can he improve his racing chances next year, what designs in his opinion will race faster, we talked about cars, planes, movies, video games, Stockade, dodgeball strategy, yoo-hoo chocolate drink, carpetball and anything else he was interested to talk about. My brain was tired!
He talked I listened. I talked, he usually laughed. I'm not sure if the laughing was at what I was saying or at me personally. Though, It didn't really matter. He was laughing, I like that.
All this active, tiring, low level, non threatening conversation was more than just passing the time - for out of the blue - after a sip of his Pepsi, a brief pause, he grew very serious, you could see the change in his eyes before he spoke. Carl brought something up that was specific, very personal and of great concern to him. He was willing to drop his guard entirely and give a peak into his life of something real happening that scares and worries him. It was heartbreaking, 9 year olds should not have to worry about some things. They're 9. However, finding someone to talk with seemed to lighten the fear in a small way. As we spoke his eyes brightened again as if someone was lighting a fire inside and taking away some of the cold and fear within. We talked about some specific things and as they do with kids we moved onto another more enjoyable conversation. I could see something changed in him. It may be small but there is now a trust where there wasn't before. An understanding and a friendship when someone trusts you with something they would not tell most if not all others.
I'd love to say this happened because I am a great conversationalist, it didn't and I'm not. Carl came to Stockade, gets to hang out with other boys and found some adult men that are willing to not only hear him talk but also listen to what he says. A huge thing in the world of a 9 year old or anyone else for that matter.
"The Derby". An event that requires a lot of work, money, organization and commitment. It can grow tiring and frustrating. However, I've been reminded of something that maybe I had missed in this year's derby, the true purpose of why we do this.
The derby is not all about "tradition", winning trophies or making the most impressive car. Those can be important reasons but it is not the core reason. The purpose is to build relationships with the boys in our CSB Unit so we can point that relationship towards our Saviour.
You know, as much as I was looking forward for the Shape N' Race Derby to be over for the year, I am very grateful that it took an entire afternoon longer than I had planned.
Copyrighted 2010 - Jim Szczodrowski