Just a Game of Chess or an Opportunity to Connect?

I have found that playing chess with various youth within the shelter has been a great tool for relationship building as it gives an opportunity to talk to them about life in general, within a neutral setting.  It’s a great icebreaker.  Not only does it help build relationships, it also provides a healthy outlet for the youth to focus their energy and minds.

On this particular day it was fairly early, about 6:00 in the morning, when I noticed a youth who I have played a few chess games with previously, simply sitting on the couch looking half awake.  I knew he was waiting to go to work and had to be out the door by 7:00am.  I’ve never played a game with a youth at this time of the day before but on a whim I asked him if he’d like to play a quick game before he left.  I was expecting a polite “no” in response but to my surprise he said “sure” and stood straight up and walked straight to the chess board as if he was waiting for me to ask him.  We ended up finishing the first game early and had time for another!

I have found that playing chess with various youth within the shelter has been a great tool for relationship building as it gives an opportunity to talk to them about life in general, within a neutral setting.  It’s a great icebreaker.  Not only does it help build relationships, it also provides a healthy outlet for the youth to focus their energy and minds.

On this particular day it was fairly early, about 6:00 in the morning, when I noticed a youth who I have played a few chess games with previously, simply sitting on the couch looking half awake.  I knew he was waiting to go to work and had to be out the door by 7:00am.  I’ve never played a game with a youth at this time of the day before but on a whim I asked him if he’d like to play a quick game before he left.  I was expecting a polite “no” in response but to my surprise he said “sure” and stood straight up and walked straight to the chess board as if he was waiting for me to ask him.  We ended up finishing the first game early and had time for another!

It was uplifting for me as a youth worker to be able to experience such a thing at such an unlikely hour of the day and more importantly it was uplifting to see that it gave this youth some extra spark and motivation for his day.  When I first met this youth he was very shy and never seemed to approach staff or other residents in dialogue very often.  After playing a few games of chess with this youth he now approaches me to play a game on his own each night and is more interactive with those around him.  After experiencing situations like this one and others that are similar, I now never hesitate to ask a youth to play a game of chess, regardless of what time it may be, because you never know when you might be missing an opportunity to connect with one of the youth…sometimes at the seemingly most unlikely of times.