Guest post – Kicking It

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By Ben Lindwall

As I first sat down to write my reaction to the movie, Kicking It I went to that place where every suburban-bred privileged white kid tends to go: seeing the homeless people play soccer just made me feel so thankful for having been raised in a family that could afford to put me on a real team, on a real field, in a real league.

Then I threw up on myself, because I deserved it.

If I honestly try to let myself be changed by what I saw, Kicking It was a clear call to action and an opportunity to take my sorry, boring, middle class life and turn it into something meaningful. It was a call to see the world differently, to find commonality and beauty in our shared human story, each having something valuable to offer, regardless of our weaknesses or past.

At first I found the coaches in the movie the easiest to identify with. They aren’t making money. They probably put in hours upon hours skillfully preparing their teams for competition and dealing with unimaginable issues along the way. I found myself thinking, I want to be just like them. Maybe I should become a homeless coach.

Then I threw up on myself, because I deserved it.

If I’m honest about who I most identify with, it was the small old man from Spain. Not because I’m an alcoholic, or because I’ve wasted my God-given talent as a pro soccer player, but because deep down I have a fear that when I reach my metaphorical World Cup I’ll be surrounded by hundreds of people who’s first instinct will be to laugh when they see me fall to the ground. Its been a few days since watching the film and I can’t get the sound of his body hitting the pavement combined with the crowd’s knee-jerk laughter out of my mind. What if I end up like him?

Then I began to see the founder of the Homeless World Cup as the most inspiring. I just need the right idea, the right business plan, and right work ethic. I could change the world. I could grow a classy mullet with a Scottish accent and everyone would look up to me. I could use social media to spread the word!

Then I threw up on myself, again, because I deserved it.

If I’m honest, the man from Kenya who could not score on a penalty kick to save his life, hit it home for me. On the surface, this guy was pathetic. Penalty kicks occur at least once or twice a game because of the small-sided format and each time he was adamant that he be the one to shoot. His coach repeatedly ordered him to let someone else take the shot and finally had to suspend him from play. Yes, the Kenyan was loosing games for his team and probably a little crazed, but his self-assuredness was what caught my attention. Maybe I could use a little “crazed”. I’ve had times where I get so bogged down in my own insecurity I can barely get myself off the couch. I hesitate and hesitate, looking around for someone else to take the shot, frozen by the fear of failure. The Kenyan was in his own world and his focus and determination (albeit a repeated abysmal failure) must have earned him a supreme sense of satisfaction. He came to play and no one was going to get in the way of a chance to score.

As I finish writing, I’m sitting in downtown Minneapolis in the early morning. Homeless people will come into this warm open area at the base of our city’s tallest skyscraper to avoid the subzero wind chill outside. They are sitting on the white benches near the fountain while the corporate folk scurry to their cubicles. There is a man with a ragged coat and scruffy beard staring at me as I type away on my MacBook. I’m realizing how disconnected we are. I’m realizing that regardless of what I think soccer balls or government programs, or some innovative idea might do to solve homelessness, I don’t have any homeless friends.

Shame on a system that has so successfully divided it’s supposedly weakest members from it’s supposedly strongest. This is where I get stuck in the enormity of the complication and the paradox of what is right in front of me. I wonder if the man in the ragged coat could have the life he wants and I wonder if I could let down my guard enough to let others see me for who I am. I wonder if I’ll be surrounded by laughter when I trip and fall. I wonder if I’ll be determined enough to try again and again after failure after failure. I wonder if I’ll let this movie have an affect on me and maybe have a little more compassion for myself, the home-haves, and the home-less. I wonder if there could be a point of genuine connection between the privileged white kid from the suburbs and the homeless man downtown.

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