It's funny how you walk into situations with preconceived notions, and they are quickly blown away.
The VCU basketball program hosted its third annual "Shop with the
Rams" event yesterday at the Target on Forest Hill Avenue. In short, 50 kids
from the local Boys & Girls Club were paired
with a basketball player, coach, or staff member and provided a $100
gift card. The duo hit the store aisles to shop for Christmas gifts. After the shopping,
the group spent time playing games, eating pizza and just enjoying time
getting to know each other.
I was paired with a girl I'll call Q. We grabbed a gift bag, the gift card, and a cart, and made our way into the store. She changed my day within the first five seconds.
"I want to get my step-sister a doll, and I'd like to get a winter coat."
That simple sentence stopped me in my tracks. If you don't know why, you probably don't have a pulse.
It took some good-natured needling, but eventually Q was able to talk about her love for fashion, hair, and sewing clothes. Since those interest areas and talents are not exactly in my wheelhouse, we hunted and found one of the nicest and most helpful Target employees. She stopped what she was doing and gave us ideas and directed us to the correct aisle.
On the way to our destination, we passed Darius Theus throwing football in the middle of Target with a child. Briante Weber flashed his million dollar smile but had dialed back the energy level to looney tunes, telling the child shopping with him to "point it out because I want to make sure you get exactly what you want." DJ Haley, a  full three feet taller than his shopping buddy, bent at the waist and pushed the cart forward, bouncing ideas off his new friend about what to get.
"It's really a great experience for us as players to take time away
from basketball and classes and help put some smiles on these kids
faces," said Rob Brandenberg. "During the season, it's so easy to lose sight on how privileged
we are to have such unbelievable support as players and student-athletes
and it's nice to have an event like this and help us put things in
perspective and think about what's really important in life."
I've long said you should surround yourself with great people and watch them, learn from them. We have a basketball team the Ramnation can be proud of on the court, and--very importantly--off the court. The team dove into the day and treated the afternoon as a privilege, not a duty. Earnest smiles were everywhere.
Thanks to them, and especially Q, I learned something yesterday.