Sometime last summer, our family went to a local splash park. It's the newest and promises to be the biggest park complex of our little city. It's technically in the south part of town, but it doesn't "feel" like the south part of town. and if you dont live in Longview, then you may not understand that everything south of Hwy 80 is just not as... desirable. Ya know... you don't forget to lock your cars... and there are certain streets you just don't even drive down.... and houses are smaller and older... and the ratio of pimped up cars to minivans is the exact opposite of the north side of town. but really, i grew up in Houston. (yeah the 4th largest city in the U.S)... So to me Longview is just a little bump in the road/ Main Street town (which i love btw way) and the differences between north and south longview aren't anywhere near the range of differences in H-town.
back to last summer though, we visited the splash park and it happened to be at a later time of day (most often I would meet other moms and kids at the park during the morning or afternoon hours) but this time it was after work and the hubs came along.
i'm not usually surprised by much, but i was pretty surprised that night. it was like walking into a completely different place. it was like walking into a park in south Longview (as terrible as that sounds). the whole atmosphere was different. families were different in their attitude and treatment of one another and a million other things
and the whole time i just kept trying to think of a way to connect with someone, anyone. and i was completely blank. (and embarrassed and disappointed that i was blank) not that there was much opportunity to get a word in edge wise between all the yelling and boisterous banter. i couldn't even think of anything to comment on or ask about... it was... it was so foreign to me... honestly it was like culture shock (and i've visited other cultures and i've grown up in ghetto schools, i shouldn't have felt that). And the kids... the kids who are usually such a great way to segway into the adults... they were just plain rude. and the parents seemed to have such little regard for their children anyways that even the sincerest of compliments about their kids wouldve been scoffed at and laughed off.
over the next few days i just couldn't get over how i just had NO CLUE how to make a connection. and i realized that it was because i had no 1st hand understanding of how these folks live, or what they deal with, or have been through, or were raised, or anything (other than the older woman telling her children they needed to go to church; gotta love grandmas).
fyi: my mind runs through a crazy progession of thoughts in an insanely unexplainable fashion.. so to sum up part of that... my thoughts, with numerous stops in between, went from: asking how to make a connection in order to make an impact... to: once in a while outreaches are stupid and dont really do much or make a lasting impact (at least the ones i've been involved in)... to: well who would want to connect with me when i live across town... to: we'll just have to live in the same community in order to connect.
and thus began the thought process and the path toward moving further south.
really our house moving plans have been three fold: to cut down our mortgage (sorta explained HERE), to downsize, and to move into south longview. and surpisingly the reactions haven't been that extreme at all when i mention to people who ask that the house we're so excited about is in south Longview... but i can tell there's at least an ounce of...
today the big splash park was closed for construction (adding more of the next phase), but we didn't know that until we drove up and we were ready for some water fun. i couldnt' remember where the other "north-sided" splash park was, but i knew about one in south longview that we had been to once before for a homeschool park day a few years ago. and the closer we got... well pretty much i just kept hoping we weren't going to interrupt any drug deals. haha... no seriously.
fortunately there was a family there... or at least 2 kids with a group of adults... that pulled up moments after us. within seconds all the kids were joyfully playing together. the two kids were super sweet and polite (which i have to say was surprising since the women of the group that they were somehow related to, were walking around very loudly fussing about "mother-f this and mother-f that"). and based on all the other vehicles and groups that pulled in and out during that hour, our little family stuck out like a sore thumb (but i have to admit that having a spraypainted van and a couple tatts helped me feel a leeeeetle bit more confident that i could maybe blend in a little... at least enough to keep from getting us killed... haha... no seriously). but we did what we could to just.. well... be ourselves. sharing towels with the kiddos and just ya know, just being there. this is where the "confirmation" came that the kids really are the best way to connect... they're simply more open, and have fewer assumptions towards other kids. reach the kids and you'll reach the parents.
so this evening my thoughts have turned to how shall we prepare the kids for the "world" they're about to enter. i didn't point out the mistreatment or the foul language of the other adults towards each other today, but it'll have to be discussed. What did they hear? what did they see? how did they feel about that? what do we do about it? and then also trying to discover the right way, or shall i say, the biblical perspective of safety.. (ya gots to have street smarts). i don't want to raise "safe and scared" kids. i want to raise adventurers who take risks for the right reasons. who don't cling to their own lives but lay it down for others. and i don't want them to be afraid of what "might" happen, i want them to trust that every moment the Lord will lead them in wisdom and love and self sacrifice. i want them to go to hard places and do hard things. and i want them prepared and equipped.
ultimately this whole thing is bigger than me and my blank brain, bigger than the kids and their future everything, bigger than our soon to be house (situated in one of the nice "pockets" of south longview), bigger than our lives and the air we breathe... and knowing that makes it seem a little less... scary... cause it's not just us or about us. but most importantly, it reveals how desperately we must trust in the Spirit's leading and lean on the truth of God's word and follow the example that Christ set for us in order to take even just one tiny step in this journey.