“It’s Homeless Soccer,” he explains.
“And it’s a real sport, because someone has already gotten hurt.” Apparently injuries are the litmus test for athletic endeavors.
The student then explains to me the rules. It’s essentially one part soccer, one part air hockey and it involves kicking a smashed soda can around on the pavement.
“Will you help me score a goal?” another student asks.
“Can you join my team?” the other side implores.
And so it goes, the game moving virally from four students up to twenty. Each time a new recruit joins the game, the student says, “If you want to play this game, I need access to your personal information. Give me your name, your religion, your sexual orientation and the name of at least two friends.”
Most students stare at him blankly and so he says, “Well, that’s good enough.”
Finally a lunch lady steps in and blows the whistle. “You can’t play with that. Put it in recycling.”
“We are recycling,” the game’s creator explains.
The lunch lady gives him the mad-dog-Darth-Vader death stare and the boy sets it down. Perhaps she’s right. Homeless Soccer can be pretty dangerous.
And yet . . .
Few people question the danger in playing imaginary games online and missing out on the beauty of face-to-face interaction. Meanwhile, I can see the appeal of Facebook games. It’s fun to be invited to play. It’s dodge ball all over again and you’ve been picked.
* * *
The next day I’m at the park with Micah and Brenna. A four year-old girl asks Micah, “Will you be my best friend?”
“Okay,” he says. “I’m Micah.”
“Do you have any friends?” she asks. He rattles off the names of any children he can remember and then she follows suit.
“I have a brother named Joel,” he says. Minutes later, “I go to church. I’m in the Lambs class.” Then he asks her if she likes Kung Fu Panda.
“It’s funny,” she giggles. “Do you like Twisted.” Micah shares his address with her and she promises to visit at some point. It won’t happen, but in the moment, they don’t care.
Neither of them apply any privacy filter. Instead, they rattle off personal details in a way that adults would never consider. Perhaps it’s a safer way to live, applying privacy filters. It’s probably a good thing that we don’t make “best friends” at public parks or share our personal lives with strangers.
However, I’m wondering if I have it all backwards. I’ll give a nameless, faceless company complete access to my Facebook profile so that I can play free Tetris. However, I have not shared the most surface-level attributes of myself to my neighbors. Google knows more about me than most of my co-workers. My dad had no idea I had written a book until a month ago, while Amazon knows not only what books I’ve written but how many sales I’ve had.
It has me thinking that maybe I need to share my story with fewer corporations and more humans.