For two hours every Thursday, a diverse group of people gets together for a relaxed, informal evening of fun playing volleyball. This group has been gathering for over three years and welcomes players of all skill levels, including a recent high school graduate, a recently widowed retiree, a former member of the Mexican national team, beginners, grandparents, spouses, non-English speakers, and many more. Through sets, spikes, and smiles, bumps, blocks and back slaps, they sweat, cheer, and laugh, enjoying friendship and exercise over the net. The group mixes it up each week with healthy competition, exciting rallies, and teamwork, discovering strength in their differences.

Paula and her sister wanted to provide a space where people of all ages and abilities could have fun through volleyball. Her church agreed to reserve the gym in its community life center for an open play volleyball group one night each week at no charge. The community center is a part of the church’s desire to connect with the neighborhood that surrounds its buildings. It is open to the community, and all are welcomed to participate in activities there. Membership in the center is free. There are exercise classes and equipment, a walking track, space for basketball practices and pickleball games, even a coffeehouse, all at no cost to the many people that come to the center.

Paula explains how the volleyball group has learned about each other through playing, talking, and praying together every week. Two of the other players, Ricky and Michelle, tell us that the group is welcoming and accepting of everyone and that they all get along, enjoy each other, and have fun. We end with Paula’s expression of hope that our city can be healed and unified, like their volleyball group, stronger because of our differences.