My heart thoughts go back to when my youngest daughter Abbie spent her first year in Houston, Texas. She went to Houston with an organization called Mission Year. You may or may not have heard of Mission Year, but their philosophy about mission work was a first for me, considering most of their new recruits are right out of high school or college and are committing for an entire year. They are young for the mission they are about to embark upon, but what makes them perfect for the challenge is that they want to serve and make a difference and are usually eager and hungry for a new adventure. Mission Year places these young adults into depressed areas of the country (but not without extensive training) to live and work among the residents of the community. They share their faith through life experience and by choosing to spend time with and love the people of the inner city who are poor, hurting, and many times homeless. They make conscious efforts to really get to know the people by sitting with them, talking with them about their lives, sharing meals with them -- just living among them. My older daughter Hollie and I decided to attend the "family weekend" Mission Year hosted in the spring before the year concluded that summer.
We arrived in Houston to meet a thick wall of hot and extremely humid air as we stepped into the airport parking deck. Wow, and I thought Atlanta was hot! The weekend afforded me opportunitites to venture into new areas for me, including totally and completely venturing OUT OF my comfort zone. When the rental car rep asked Abbie where she lived in Houston and she replied In Third Ward, the look on his face told me volumes. I had rented a car because our hotel was in a different location and we needed safe transport as we got back to the hotel late at night. Our first full day in the city we parked the car and used city transportation for everything we did that day. Abbie road the city bus to her job at a local church; she rode the city bus to buy groceries; she rode the city bus for any social activities or meetings called by Mission Year. They are not allowed to use their cars, so that they are able to get a better understanding of how poor inner city people live every day. Many of them don't have cars. They use public transportation for everything and I learned really quick just how frustrating that can be. It takes way longer to get somewhere riding the bus than it does in a car, meaning you have to leave much earlier and plan on getting back much later. To top it off, sometimes the bus can only get you so far and you have to walk several blocks, which proved to be a challenge for me and for Hollie as well because she was pregnant at the time (and very grumpy that weekend I might add).
On Saturday, the girls (Abbie and her housemates) were to host a community lunch and had invited their neighbors to attend. I might inject here that this endeavor in itself was impressive because these young women had a very limited amount of money to work with, given they were alloted what I considered a radiculously little amount of money to buy groceries for five young women. After running out of money for the week, sometimes they lived off beans & rice till they received their next grocery stipend. And to prepare food for their neighbors was an even greater achievement (they also had to plan well in advance, because they had to ride the bus to go grocery shopping as aforementioned). Wow, I don't know how they did it. It's an intentional way of living and a disciplined life to say the least. This I do know: They learned pretty fast how to make a dollar stretch and how to get by on just what they needed, not so much what they wanted. They also improved their cooking and baking skills that year -- a bonus!
The time for the neighborhood lunch arrived and I was impressed by what they served. It was well thought out, well made, and delicious! The neighbors dropped in as they were able, but food was offered to all and no one refused it. There was one homeless man, an artist, who stayed pretty much the entire day and offered his impromptu sketches much to everyone's delight. There was a small black girl visiting from across the street who obviously felt at home as she rolled around on the floor and played nearby. It was clear she had visited before. There was the Hispanic family who dropped in and, much to Hollie's delight due to her fluency in Spanish, she communicated with them in a way none else of us could. An elderly black man came who sat very quietly, but you could see in his eyes he was wise from his years and a kind man.
And that's when I had my epiphany. Isn't this indeed the way God meant for it to be? People of all colors, cultures, and backgrounds coming together? After all, we want the same things, don't we? To love and be loved, to have family and safety and a piece of happiness in this life. And it was there in that tiny living room that I stepped out of my comfort zone, but into a peace and a different kind of contentment in being able to catch a small glimpse for even a short time of the way God intended it to be, people loving people and living together in harmony.
(P.S.) Abbie still lives in Houston and has made her home there (at least for now). She is still involved with the inner city residents and lives a life of simplicity. And for that I am truly proud.
Posted by CC
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