Tonight my husband was heading to bed and asked if I was coming. I told him in a moment and then asked if he would turn out the lights so I can hear this song better. What a strange thing to say, but it is so true. When the lights are out I can hear. Feels very relevant in America right now too.
Something I am finding important in this turbulent time is we need to know who we are, and we need to tell the world that story. Who we are (not who we are not) is playing a part in creating this new world we get to create. This is a new revelation for me and took years to get here and I am not done, never done. Starting a blog seemed scary to me because I had no idea where to start. And honestly, who am I. I am short, my voice doesn’t carry – You are small no one cares what you have to say (this is what my ego keeps telling me). Then I wrote something a few weeks ago on FaceBook and a friend commented asking me if I had a blog. She told me if I started one she would read it. So Claire this is for you! As I sat in the dark with this song playing “From Now On” from “The Greatest Showman” (I am obsessed right now with this movie and music) I realized where I needed to start. I am going to start where Claire and I had our journeys cross because that is a significant time in my faith journey. I have learned to listen to the Spirit from Jonathan Martin, a Pentecostal Minister who wrote “How to Survive a Shipwreck” (I will talk more on this later). So Claire being the one to ask about a blog feels like that is The Spirit pointing to where I start.
Ok, I am going to start one year before Claire actually, but the location is the same. In 2011 Jake and I, along with the kids, went on a St. Louis Mission Trip with the Youth Group of Richardson East Church of Christ. I was in charge of teaching a Finance Class while Jake was going to help with Sports. Well, my first day in class was rough. First of all, the air conditioner was so loud and my voice DOES NOT carry, so I could not be heard. The atmosphere of this group is angry because life is hard. At the time I did not realize a lot of what I know now, and I still have a long ways to go in regards to race and poverty. This is a very poor area in St. Louis and ironically the kids in this neighborhood are of color. We are in a beautiful former Catholic Church built in the depression at an astronomical price for that period. Now it is abandoned due to white flight and this church meets in the basement dreaming one day the whole church can open again. The Catholic Church took their stain glass that was designed specifically for that church and the windows are replaced with bullet proof glass because that is the culture now.
Now back to my story teaching. I got through 2 classes ok even with the air conditioner because there were helpers who walk with the kids. They help with discipline and anything else we the teachers need. But one class did not go well. One kid was not acting right and was a huge disruption. He was very disrespectful to me as well. I was surprised the helper wasn’t saying anything. I asked him to take this kid out of class and the helper told me I was harsh. This killed my confidence because I was trying to tread carefully being a privileged white girl coming into someone’s neighborhood that doesn’t know their story. Now my fear is telling me this is what I am doing. After class I went to the boy to tell him how much I appreciated him. He then made a threatening gesture at me and I thought he was going to hit me. After everyone left the room (except the RE Youth Kids) I cried. I could not help it. I was worn out, hot (we had to turn down the extremely loud air), the air conditioner pissed me off, and now I failed in such a horrible way. The kids came over and surrounded me and held me up. I was too exhausted to even be embarrassed by this. And to this day I love those kids with everything in me because they knew I needed them and they were there.
Later the preacher’s wife came to get me from dinner. She sat me down and told me I said exactly what that kid needed to hear. She said the helper is trying to be their friend versus disciplining them. She said these kids don’t have many people in their life guiding them. She told me to please not give up, I was doing a good job and she hugged me. This meant so much to me because she is there all the time with the kids and did not see me as someone intruding. And to hear someone say I did a good job on a day I was in tears because it was so hard.
The next day Jake was teaching with me. 🙂 His voice carries and he has experience in a classroom. The next 2 days went so well. The kid was not allowed back the next day because he threatened me, but was allowed back on day 3. On Day 3 he was amazing. He loved everything we were doing and was the most excited one about the project. Then I had him again the following year when I returned again and there is a picture of me teaching and he is the one really leaning in to listen. I cry every time I look at that picture. Never write anyone off – love them – it does change the course. I know this kid doesn’t have a lot going for him. I pray he is ok today. I still love him so.
Because the kids were so young, I could not make the whole week without doing Laundry. Blake was 3 and potty trained, but a newly trained 3 year old on a mission trip means tons of accidents. So I looked up a Laundry mat in the area. When I got there I realized this was not a place many people would feel safe going to, but this moment is transformational for me in many ways. I go in there and start laundry but I am famished. So I walk around outside looking for a place to eat. There is literally so few options and the options available are so unhealthy. I stopped by a place that looked like a version of Kentucky Friend Chicken. But here is the thing, the door to go in is only open a few hours of the day, drive through is what they encourage. And when you can go in, only one door is unlocked letting you in. Then I go to the counter and there is bullet proof glass between me and the employee. This floored me how much fear they live in daily. It pulled at my heart. This isn’t right. (Even at the church they told us not to go outside the gate- a murder happened outside the church not long ago). This is not a joke, this is a reality for people daily and still is.
I go back to the laundry mat with my food. It is absolutely gross. There is very little meat and just a bunch of fried breading with gravy. I could not stomach but a few bites. Then a lady sits down next to me and says, “Isn’t that food so good?” I cried looking at her because I realized this was her only option. She was 53 and had a 21 year old granddaughter. Do the math! She had younger grandchildren too. I told her about the VBS we were doing at the church. Her first question was “Is there food?”. I never understood the significance of the question until now. We all need food to live. We actually can live without hearing what the Bible says, but we physically cannot live without food. No one can. It is the most Spiritual thing we do. Nothing lives without food – humans, plants, animals, etc.
I am going to stop here b/c this is really long. There is more to write and I will do so another time. I cannot write it all at once. That is hard for me. I want to tell everything, but that is too much at once.
Grace and Peace,