As weeks to visit the country of Belgium go, the Short family could have picked a much worse time than being there in the thick of the country’s deep run in the World Cup.
Tricia, Paul and their oldest daughter Hannah didn’t plan it that way though.
The family from Medford, N.J. (minus their younger twins) were in Brussels to volunteer for a week with an organization called Serve the City.
“We did everything from handing out sandwiches to the homeless, painting at refugee housing centers, serving lunch to the poor at a Sisters of Charities home and providing haircuts to refugees living in the parks,” Tricia Short said.
After meeting and serving local residents in Brussels during the day, they were cheering alongside the many Belgian fans at night, agonizing over the 2-0 deficit the team faced and overcame in spectacular fashion against Japan on Monday and mingling with both Belgians and Brazilians in the 2-1 win for the Red Devils last Friday.
“Being in Brussels, Belgium during this time was so incredible,” Tricia said. “Brussels is a huge city filled with so many nationalities because of NATO being located there and it being a hub for refugees. Many have settled there from all over the world. They actually joke that it is rare to find a true Belgian in the city. However, when the games were on, the Belgians came out to cheer.”
Tricia said the atmosphere in the city was extremely welcoming and contagious.
“People were running into the streets cheering, honking horns and yelling chants,” she said. “The awesome thing to experience was there were Brazilians watching the game with the crowd we were with and even though they were clearly cheering for the other team, everyone was respectful of them and bringing them into the celebrations.”
Returning home to South Jersey earlier this week, there’s little doubt now who the Short family are cheering for today in the World Cup semifinal against France.
“I asked Hannah what it felt like to her and she said she now loves ‘football’ because she was able to see it from another perspective and another culture,” Tricia said. “She compared the Europeans love for the sport to the US’s love for American Football. She said she felt like a Belgian being able to cheer them on in their home country and now wants to see them win the whole cup.”
Going to Brussels was partially Hannah’s idea in the first place. Paul Short is on the U.S. executive team for Serve the City and attended the same Big Volunteer Week event last year.
“When he came home and began telling us stories, Hannah was intrigued and really wanted to go,” Tricia said. “We felt it was important that we experience it all together. So, off we went!”
While the experience was an opportunity for the family to live out their Christian faith, it was also a chance to experience many new cultures together since they were serving alongside many other volunteers from around the globe. They are hoping next to start a chapter for the organization here in the Philadelphia area.
“The slogan for the week was ‘Many people doing small acts of kindness can make a big difference,’” Tricia said. “We had an ending party in the park and invited all the people we served. Mostly the refugee families came. You could see the joy on their faces as they celebrated with all of us.”