Today was another unusual day for me in the neighborhood (funny how those things happen after Diane and I pray together for ministry there). As I was out and about near the house, I saw a group of guys on the corner, most likely doing what guys in my part of town do on the corner. But as I looked, I recognized a guy who used to live on my block, and so I pulled up to talk with him, and later, just felt led by God to back and invite him to lunch. He accepted and so a couple hours later I picked him up, and he wanted to bring a friend with him. Now this particular kid was a bit disconcerting when he was 12 years old, and now as a 17-year-old with a fellow street guy in the backseat, he made me pretty nervous. I’m driving down the street with these two, and my fears begin to get the best of me, so upon arrival at the restaurant, I phoned in for backup (my pastor, Will Dungee), who rode on out there and sat with us.
Our lunch went as well as one could expect. Worlds were colliding on all sorts of levels from race to class to religion, and I am sure the new guy was wondering what in the heck he’d gotten himself into sitting with me and Will. After lunch, my friend was asking me for $25 for court costs, as though I owed to him which really annoys me. But eventually he offered to work for it at the house, so he came home with me and cut my grass, and did a great job. (Incidentally, it was really interesting to see how he treated Diane when she came home – very respectful, lots of yes ma’ams and a genuine smile. Shows that he may have involvement in his life from mother figures). I paid him and took him home (about a mile up the road) and as I waited at the light with my window down, a guy on the corner said, “You need anything or did Sherman get you straight,” and I assured him that I was good to go before heading out.
Ten minutes later I was in the post office on a trendier side of town, talking with a friend from church who works for a multi-million dollar home builder, and we were surrounded by well-off people who I was very comfortable around. And it hit me – what just happened? I’ve gone from hanging out with two poor drug-dealing teenagers to being in a place that feels very safe and a million miles away. As I drove off, I saw a couple of young kids walking, and I wondered if they even knew that the world on the other side of town existed, and could not help but be struck by how far apart two neighborhoods separated by four miles can be.