handshakes in the hood

I visited the apartments this evening. One hour. I signed several kids up for soccer camp which occurs next week. There are a couple of boys who are new to the neighborhood. Brothers, in 2nd and 5th grade. The older sibling is causing quite a stir among the older resident girls, now that they are noticing boys in that way. Poor kid. I hope he can run fast.

I met their father. A very nice man, and seasoned soccer player himself, although he currently is sidelined with an injury. He said he would need to talk it over with his wife concerning whether the boys could participate in soccer. He also asked about the church. “What kind of church is it? Christian, mormon….” His words trailed off. I emphatically stated that we are Christian and that we follow Jesus Christ, believing in his death and resurrection. He nodded. I expect more conversations to follow soon. After gathering several names it was time to head home. A lady leading a gaggle of kids and other adults accosted me on the sidewalk. “Why don’t you ever come to our apartment anymore?” She demanded.

Not knowing who she is, I replied, “For what reason?”

She sneered. “You got that clipboard in your hand. Whatever that is for.”

“I am inviting kids who are in 2nd through 6th grade to play soccer next week. Do you have any kids that age who would like to play?” She harrumphed and kept walking.

I shook my head and walked to my car. Later on, I realized it must have been an apartment which I had visited a couple of times a year ago and had begun to pick up kids for church, only to quickly be rebuffed in my efforts several times in a row. Thus, I stopped going to their door.

Such is life in the hood. On one hand I received multiple handshakes from a father who is grateful I have taken the time to visit, to invite his boys to soccer camp and church, and to discuss the church and faith with him. On the other hand I felt mildly slapped in the face, treated as if I have deeply offended a person I don’t recognize or know on account of not living up to her apparent expectations.

It isn’t neat or tidy; it is part of the rhythm of doing life with people, each with our own agendas, assumptions, perspectives. Afterward I called a friend to ask for a friendly listening ear. For an half hour she listened as I vented. It is a necessary aspect of self-care for those of us in the people business.


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