Another night of basketball with the neighbor youth. Six kids. Two coaches in addition to me. Good attitudes and effort. A marked contrast to last week’s experience. This week was smooth as a glassy sea. Last week was like crawling over broken shards of glass.
It’s the kind of stuff that happens in community subplots, those hidden stories where lives intersect and people must relate to each other. Sometimes we get along great. At other times conflict causes personalities to clash.
I have no illusions as to my place in my neighborhood. I’m a minor character. Others are far more consequential and influential. Yet despite this tertiary role, I understand the power of patience, kindness, and timing. It is a willingness to listen and learn, and to suppress the temptation to initiate my ideas without first understanding my cultural milieu.
Even in the cultural margins there are social structures. Some are influencers by virtue of being thought-leaders and gatekeepers. This is particularly noticeable among older children, youth, and especially adults. I seek to learn who these people are, and to develop relationships with them. By God’s grace I’m in this for the long haul.
So I keep plodding on. Sometimes through basketball. At other times through children’s outreach which is soon to begin. But mainly by learning to be present, and to demonstrate with my church family by our presence and actions that we actually care. That God actually cares. He cares for this neighborhood which is teeming with people. He loves each child, youth, and adult who does life here daily.
We aren’t heroic riders on champion horses, come to save the day. Rather, we are fellow neighbors, trying to figure life out alongside them, albeit with a relationship with the Lord God. We pray for them daily. We are learning to do life with them. We seek to engage them in Christ’s love by opening our hearts to them so that they may witness the transformative power of the gospel in our lives. We pray that they will believe and follow Jesus as well.
We have a long way to go, but that is a glimpse into my hopes for the weeks ahead.