I rarely want to go out into our neighborhood on Saturdays.
Don’t get me wrong. Spending time in 3rd Ward, learning the places, meeting people and spending time with our neighbors is something that I value. It is something that Mission Year values. And honestly, there are great people and a rich history in this neighborhood. But, it seems I lack motivation… almost every Saturday. After a week of work, training and curriculum, the thought of investing doesn’t sound as enticing as a nap or some chill time. Thankfully, the time is built into my schedule, and my teammates (housemates?) help get me out the door.
This past Saturday, God gave me a glimpse of how awesome He is… and how he places people together for times and seasons. Tommy and I went to help a neighbor – Mr. CIA – with some lawn work. He wasn’t around, which has happened before. This frustrates me, but I try and remind myself of African time to make things “better” for my mind. We walked around some more, stopping by a few other neighbors and discussing the week, before deciding to walk back by Mr. CIA’s house and lot.
This time we connected with him. And so, for the next thresh hours, we joined him in some yard work. The few times I’ve been able to exert myself this year, I’ve realized that I enjoy it, especially when I’m at a desk most of the time. Did I get some blisters from raking? Yes. Does my back hurt some as I type this? Yes. But did Tommy and I get to meet a neighbor where he was, sharing in both work and conversation? Ye. And there is something beautiful in that. Mr. CIA wanted to barbecue for us, but nee to get some more work done as we headed home to eat with our house and fix his rake, but we said we’d be back that evening with the rake.
Fast forward to post-dinner. We head back to his area of the neighborhood. His grill is already smoking and a couple of his friends are chatting with him. We come and sit in on their conversations, pulling up a crate and a bucket, which seem like obvious chairs. Harold recently got out of prison after being there for thirty-six years. My mind can’t comprehend that he lived in prison before I was even born…. And he has such a positive attitude. He willing shared parts of his story, encouraging us not to get in trouble, showing his prison ID and talking about how tough life can be. But sitting around the fire, smoking a feast of meat, he took us back to his childhood. He remembers his mom singing songs as the cooked in their backyard – but even then it felt like he and his family had escaped the city and were “free” in a forest. He started singing his favorite hymn… and I quickly was transported out of 3rd Ward… back to a time when families and friends gathered around fires and food, sharing stories and songs, enjoying just being and able to see the stars and wonder.
None of the afternoon or evening was expected. I can only thank God for sharing these people, these place, these moments.