Monday, June 4, 2012

Why I Will Miss the Inner City

In case you haven't heard, after four years of ministry in Indianapolis, our family will be soon be moving to Durham, NC so Greg can attend Duke Divinity School.  I think it will be a healthy change for our family.  I'm looking forward to having more time and energy to care for the three people I love most.  We'll be close to the ocean, which thrills me.  We'll be right on top of one of the most influential, academic hubs in the world, a place where (I hope) I'll find motivation to do something with my brain that has grown mushy.

But today I am grieving.  There is a part of my heart -- a pretty large portion, actually -- that has also grown mushy.  In a good way.  There are things and people and experiences here that I am sure cannot be found in any other place in the world, and I fear that no matter where I go in life I will always be searching for the equivalent.  No doubt there is plenty of heartache here as well, but I've had plenty of time to focus on that.  Today, as therapy I suppose, I just need to highlight the good things, people, and experiences of our little stint in the inner city.

1.  A beautiful, gutsy 12-year old named Coreyona.  For two years she and I have laughed together, played games together, and struggled with grade school math together.  Despite all the disappointments in her life, despite how impatient I can be with her junior high-ishness, Coreyona has given me vast amounts of attention, patience and loyalty.  She even threatened to beat up a kindergartener I tutored one day, fearing that I was replacing her.  Bless you, you crazy girl.

2.  The food pantry.  It's an event more than a place.  (See Aromatherapy.)  I haven't attended much the last few years, because, frankly, it saps all of my emotional strength for the day.  (And I believe when there are children in the home, only one parent at a time should be depleted of emotional energy.)  But if I was a better, stronger person, I would devote my Monday mornings to the ministry of conversation.  There are people that come to food pantry who beat their children, people who prostitute themselves for drugs, people who have lived half their lives behind prison bars.  There are people who immigrated in order to feed their children, people with extreme mental illness, people who live their lives under bridges.  Their stories are incredible, their ability to absorb life's blows is astonishing.  It has been an honor to sit, listen, and learn.

3.  Three very angry, very demanding females: a grade schooler, a teenager, and a 60-year old.  At different times, all three of them spoke truth into my life.  These were hard truths to hear, wrapped in raw, harsh language and sometimes profanity, but I definitely heard them.  Maybe that was point.  Maybe Holy Spirit thought I was growing immune to her sweet, forgiving tone.

4.  Friendship Community Garden, the little growing/gathering place carved out of an empty lot next to our house.  I've learned so many things here: how to keep kids from stealing tomatoes, how to mulch properly, how to direct a work team of suburban teens, how to use a 20-horsepower wood chipper.  I've learned that even if I sow seeds at the wrong time, forget to water, and generally neglect the weeds, God can still produce a little something from my efforts.  I've learned that I am very small; sometimes, something grew out of the ground that I hadn't even planted.

5.  Leading kids in musical worship via voices, instruments, dance moves, and motions.  I didn't know I could do this.  But thanks to lots of practice in front of the mirror, I have become quite adept at singing, dancing, playing a toy tambourine, balancing my daughter on one hip, and disciplining unruly children -- all pretty much at the same time.  I've also learned that everyone likes me better when I smile.

6.  Daystar Child Care and Westminster Presbyterian Preschool -- where, for two years, my daughters have spent a few mornings each week.  One is low-cost, the other is completely free, but both have quality programs and are run by folks with passions similar to my own.  I'm grateful for people who believe that investing in early child development will not only help increase school attendance and achievement, but will ultimately help children grow into more loving, responsible adults.

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