Do what you can to make change

Published 4:25 pm Tuesday, January 12, 2021

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By Nathan Rice

Timothy said hello as he walked into the church building. It was 48 degrees and raining outside, but he only had on a pair of shorts, a T-shirt, and his favorite pair of flip flops. I ushed him into the warmth of the building as he assured me that he wasn’t cold. I was sad that he left home with such little protection from the cold, but I know that he’s largely unattended at home. There is no one there to ensure that he leaves the house adequately prepared for the winter elements.

Following the service, Timothy and I headed to Richard’s house. I invited Richard to join us that afternoon because I knew it had been a rough week for him. The loss of his grandmother added to his typical family drama.

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I smiled as we talked, but I was saddened by the situations of the two young men who sat in my car. I wanted their home lives to change; I wanted their lives to be better. I had worked with them for years, and the thoughts of all I had tried to do to help went through my mind. I have tried to help, but much of the assistance I could give requires the participation of parents and other family members who are not interested in improving the home or helping their children. The homes in which they live haven’t changed much over the years, and the kids are forced to face the consequences of actions that are not theirs.

We parked outside our destination and entered the complex. I placed my credit card in a machine that gave us a card to access the numerous arcade games lined up throughout the room. We spent the next hour racing through digital worlds, fighting off giant centipedes that aimed to destroy our spaceships, helping a chicken cross roads through a dangerous world, scoring on each other in air hockey, and trying our hand at some games to win tickets for the prizes located at the exit.

After a giant centipede destroyed our spaceships, we took a break from the games to have lunch. Chicken strips, fries and mozzarella sticks didn’t make for the healthiest meal, but it was one we all enjoyed.

We finished our meal and went to the mini-golf course on the second floor, where we completed the 18 holes by hitting around sharks, pirates and other dangers that were determined to keep any of us getting a hole-in-one.

Lastly, we traded in our tickets for a few prizes, and we headed home. I dropped off Richard and then Timothy, sad that they had to return to the reality of their lives. I wanted to do more, but I knew my options were limited.

I thought about the day, and I remembered Timothy’s smile when he won a game and Richard’s laugh when the digital skyscraper I was attempting to build collapsed. I may not be able to change their homes, but I can give them a break for a few hours. I can provide an escape for a while.

There are some situations that we cannot correct and some problems that we cannot solve. Some things are beyond our control. Nevertheless, we can — and should — do what we can. It may not change everything, but it changes something, and perhaps it changes more than we realize.


Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at