Written by Jeff Falk
On the surface, playing basketball and the act of serving food to less fortunate people may not seem all that similar. But what members of the New Covenant Christian boys’ basketball team recently learned is that team work, communication and working towards a common goal are skills that can be useful in almost every pursuit in life.
That was perhaps the most poignant message learned by the eight Flame players who served the free noon meal at Lebanon County Christian Ministries on Dec. 30. But it certainly wasn’t the only one.
The idea to serve was the brainchild of Troy Williams.
In addition to being New Covenant Christian’s head coach, Williams doubles as LCCM’s executive director. The service itself was not unlike the basketball concept of ‘open gyms’ or off-season practice in that it was voluntary, put participation was strongly suggested.
“They’re similar because we’re a team,” said senior guard Shane Seibert, the Flames’ leading scorer. “On the court, you can’t do it by yourself. And this you couldn’t do by yourself.”
“When we’re serving these people, you get this feeling of goodness,” said Josh Hummel, a sophomore from Cleona. “From a basketball standpoint, it’s a team concept. We’re trying to grow and be a better team.”
“I wanted to do it and being the middle of a holiday week, they didn’t have school and I thought ‘Why not?’,” said Williams, who has guided the Flames to a 3-1 start. “They’re a basketball team and I wanted to do some team-building exercise off the court. And it falls within the school’s mission. A lot of these young men are going to be leaders in the mission field.”
On that particular Thursday, the Flames prepared pork, sauerkraut and smashed potatoes and served 150 LCCM clients. And afterwards, they really cleaned up.
“What I see is no matter how poor or favored we are, we’re all humans,” said Seibert. “It’s amazing to see how polite these people are. It’s great to see the graciousness.”
“I think I learned that I should probably be more thankful for what I have,” said Hummel. “Some of these people don’t have anything.”
“The guys did great,” said Williams. “They came with smiles on their faces and willing attitudes. Some of the guys had done this in the past, so they knew what they were getting into.”
Certainly Thursday’s exercise in servitude has the ability to benefit the Flames down the road. Teams that come together and grow together as a unit off the court can only be more unified on the court.
“The more guys can do together to build relationships, it can only help on the court,” said Williams. “Hopefully it reflected their team work on the court. When you look at basketball and serving the noon meal separately, there aren’t many similarities. But they came together to accomplish the greater good. And on the court you come together to win a basketball game.”
“In a way it can benefit us on the court,” said Seibert. “Each guy is helping each other, and we’re growing together. It’s nice to know we’re here for each other.
“I see it as a great opportunity to give, to give back to people,” Seibert continued. “Giving makes me feel great. I think it’s what God wants us to do. As we try to grow spiritually, this can be an effective thing.”
“I think it can be beneficial,” said Hummel. “We helped each other make the meal, and it could help us communicate more on the court.
“It was a new experience, but it was definitely enjoyable,” Hummel added. “It definitely gave me something to think about, that I’m more blessed than some people.”
Lebanon County Christian Ministries’ Free Noon Meal Program seeks to provide a hot, nutritious meal every day, to attendees regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, beliefs or economic standing.
“It wasn’t too hard for me because I did it before, so I knew what was coming,” said Seibert. “I always enjoy helping other people. It puts a smile on my face.
“I took it as voluntary, as helping others,” added Seibert. “I could’ve stayed home, but I like helping others. This is what I chose to do.”
“When I first found out about it I thought it was going to be a pretty neat experience to serve the community,” said Hummel. “I like helping and serving people, so I thought it would be beneficial to me and the team.
“The whole team enjoyed doing it,” Hummel continued. “It was a great experience. And I think it was a benefit to these people.”
“Overall, I think it was a positive experience for everybody,” concluded Williams. “I think it gave me an opportunity to show the guys I’m more than a basketball coach. It showed them what I do for a living, how I get to help people.”