Between arriving home from the park and sitting down to dinner, I had to take a prescription to a friend’s house, and as I went to my car, I noticed a man sitting on the steps across the street. Normally I am too busy, to hurried to stop and say hello, but I think my heart had been softened by my trip to the park, and so instead of a simple hello, I also commented on his shirt (it looked like a Tar Heels shirt from afar). We talked for a minute across the street, and then I knew I needed to walk across, to extend relationship across the concrete boundary. I introduced myself as his neighbor, and we talked for a minute, as he expressed a desire to get back to church, to get back on track with the Lord (and this before I had told him what I did for a living). While I still had a question about his sincerity, he and I at least now knew each other’s names and had the beginning of relationship. A small step, but a hopeful one.
I lay in bed that night thinking about the dealers on the corner, wondering how to reach them, how to help them find a new way of life, and the first step is simply going to be relationship. Their knowing my name, my knowing theirs. They are people, not drug dealers. They are young men who need hope and direction, who have families and friends and at one point were simply little kids playing basketball and sliding down the slide at the park.
Ultimately, ugliness doesn’t win in my heart or in my neighborhood. In time, the hope of Christ beats back the reality of what I see around me, and I know with all my heart that with Him, all things are possible.
And time and again I am reminded by the necessity of relationship to bring the hope of Christ to bear in places of darkness and defeat. For me to have the hope of Jesus and not share it sort of transforms it into non-hope. I believe that hope should be lived, acted on, not squirreled away for comfort on a bad day. If Jesus ultimately is the answer to the ugliness in and around us all, then acting on that is one way that we unleash that hope into the world. Pray for me to have courage to simply learn the names of the guys on the block, hopeful for the power of Christ to bring transformation.