By Maggie Brown
As the sun set across the sprawling Chennai skyline, resting the hands of darkness upon the bustling city street corners, I stood motionless amongst a vast sea of children carrying a wave of anxious excitement across their young faces. Sprawled out in a grass field in the heart of one of India’s largest communities, hundreds of children assembled in a familiar world, to engage in an unfamiliar game of basketball, and to learn the concept of integration between education and sport. As my eyes gazed unbelievingly at the astonishing sight unraveling before me, I fought the oncoming urge to breakdown in tears before the very beings that had engrained such joy in the realm of my heart. As the stinging water filled the confines of my blue eyes, I realized that the tears rolled not because of a burning sadness, but because of a joy so astounding that no words can do justice.
Being my second year as a counselor participating in the Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy initiative, I knew that it would not be the solemn sadness of what laid before my eyes that would strike me with the velocity of a commanding lightning bolt. Despite my constant yearning to magically land in a Chennai that differed massively from the Chennai that I departed a short year ago, I accepted that this desperate plea was not feasible in the course of twelve short months. I knew that the extreme socioeconomic hardship of countless Indian children would still illuminate in the night sky, and that the pains of seeing a child go without would stab me in the heart with the force of a bloody dagger. In my heart I already knew, that seeing a barefoot child running wildly towards the fountain providing clean water and working bathrooms could spin me into an irrepressible emotional breakdown – but what I was not prepared for was the breakdown that could come from the power of a single smiling face.
As the first day of the 2014 Crossover camp concluded this evening, there was something magical about the hundreds of faces staring me in the eye, their smiles seemingly stretching across the entirety of India. For a brief second, socioeconomic status did not exist in India. For a brief second, gender separation and inequality did not exist in India. For a brief second, all of India seemed to be one. As I looked across the field of the American International School, I did not see the joyous faces of individuals from across the city of Chennai. Instead, I saw animated faces of leadership, character, teamwork, and communication that were destined to provide the future leadership that the nation of India needed. In the span of three short hours, I went from envisioning a sea of children ready to shoot a basketball for the first time, to standing in front of a sea of children learning what it would take to succeed in their future through the power of Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy.
This vision is what ultimately did it for me, bringing tears to my eyes that were difficult to hold back. At Crossover, we do not aim to formulate a small child into the next big market name to play in the professional basketball ranks. But, we do aim to provide children with the tools that they will need to succeed in the classroom, to succeed at home, and to ultimately succeed in life. As camp came to a close for the first short day, I realized the enormous power in Crossover, and the potential that our group has to truly engage and shape a mass of young children during our quick time in Chennai. Together, we are not here to teach the fundamentals of a slam-dunk, but to teach the fundamentals of a slam-dunk in the classroom and beyond, and to give India’s next generation of leaders the kick-start they need into the realm of lifelong success.