I was ready for them–two kids, skateboards in hand, walking toward the front of Advent House. I was ready to tell them off for skating down the front steps and railing, waiting in my “dare you to try” posture.
I couldn’t have them destroying what seemed to take all of last summer to fix. Not on my watch! The railing still bears skateboard scars…we should paint it. But I digress–I was ready to fearlessly confront these property destroyers.
Then they stopped at the front door and read the sign, the sign I wasn’t going to put up because summertime is irregular. The sign I was now regretting putting up because I’d be out of town for two days. They read it out loud, talked about how “They’re already closed” and something about coming back tomorrow.
That’s when I realized they were curious, not rascals. So I emerged from the shadows and opened the door, defenses down, ready to be kind.
We talked. I discovered that they’re college students (they look so young!!) who just wanted to know what this house is all about. “I’ve seen it from the street,” he said, and their current skating journey through the adjacent parking lot led to an active search for answers. I told them a bit, gave them a point of reference to the other ministry houses.
She kept looking at the sign. “So I can come here and study?” she asked, surprised at how simple that notion was.
“Yes,” I replied.
“I’m gonna invite my friends! Do y’all have snacks?”
“What kind of snacks?”
“Like cookies, chips, juice?”
“Sometimes.” I smiled and invited then in.
After a brief tour, I offered them water and, you guessed it, snacks. I had a few small bags of chips in my office. He’d just eaten. She happily and graciously took the Cheetos.
They may return; they may not. I want to remember their names and faces, just the same. I do hope they return.
While putting away dishes last night, I listened to a podcast. One of the main points was making strides in your particular line of work/industry by asking yourself what breaks your heart. Aside from thinking that it’s a melodramatic question, I do find it helpful and my answer is this: when people aren’t connected. I can’t stand to see people ignored or left out. So I focus on those who aren’t “in” yet and help them belong. It’s not as easy outside of my peer group but it’s a desire nonetheless.
So if the skateboarders need a space and can grow in this space, I hope they return.
And I’m thanking God. Even though I jumped to conclusions, I chose to stop and listen. (It helped to have a door between us. More of us need doors.) That’s often the difference between a good situation and a bad one–listening. But when you believe you have a valid reason for immediate distrust, you tend to act first and listen later. Past experience makes it hard to give the benefit of the doubt. Let’s hope this encounter stays fresh in my memory.
Now to replace the big lawn banner someone stole–can’t expect everyone to come to the door.