The day I went back began one afternoon several years ago. I picked up my children from school, we grabbed a treat from a drive-through and went for an after school drive, as I listened to them tell me about their day.
“Amber likes Robert…Robert likes baseball…Karen fell on the playground and I don’t know what to do for a science project.” Megan always had the ability to allow her words to tumble out – one subject led right into the next.
Jacob, the oldest, endures his sister’s conversation by staring out of the car window thinking of his own day.
Finally, having heard enough, Jacob changes the subject. “ Mom, where did you live when you were a little girl?”
“I’ll show you”, I replied gleefully. Excited to drive through a neighborhood that I had not seen in years.
Up what use to be a hill (but is really just a rise in the road), and across the railroad tracks to the old neighborhood.
The yard that went on forever is a lot smaller than I remembered. There was the old Magnolia tree that my daddy planted during my first week out of the womb. It had grown so very much and is now towering over the small two bedroom home.
I’m not sure how I feel about being almost as old as a tree that looks like the ancient-of-days of trees.
Our Red brick house with white trim has now been painted Pepto-Bismol pink along with the trim and iron columns in the front.
“My” plum tree where I would sit and eat green plums until I had a stomach-ache, is now gone. Probably cut down years ago.
I drive past the house slowly, trying to remember my sister and me running through the yard, climbing trees, daddy cooking out in the back yard, and mom opening the crank windows in the early mornings letting in the cool of the day. No air conditioning back then for us. Only an attic fan whose hum lulled me to sleep each night. It was our only relief from a south Alabama summer; and so many of my cousins, aunt and uncles who lived around the corner.
Blue flashing lights and a siren pulling me over jolt me back to the present. The policeman walks up to my car and wants to know why I’m in this area.
I tell him about the pink house that use to be red brick with white trim that I lived in when I was little.
“Mam”, He begins, “This is not a safe area. Turn your car around and leave immediately.”
More than a little surprised, I make a u-turn and watch in my rear view mirror and the officer follows me to the entrance of the neighborhood before turning in a different direction.
I had heard that the area had gone to drug dealers and gangs, but it never occurred to me that I would be in such danger. It was after all, my old home where there was plenty of love and laughter.
I have thought about that day from time to time, wondering what happens to children whose lives know little more than violence in a neighborhood that is call “Unsafe”. Saddened at the thought that a place that held so many sweet memories of childhood for me could be a place of wounded memories for another.
Looking back opens your eyes.
Nothing is as big as it seemed, and the little things are the biggest treasures.
Closing our eyes can take us back,
and closing our eyes hides the here and now.
And God is whispering to my heart to be the hands and feet, to be the light on the stand.
This week in a different neighborhood, that is not too terribly different at all, not far from my childhood home, I begin working with their children. Teaching them to embroidery, talking about life skills, being leaders in kindness and godly wisdom, learning to use these skills to make money for their families, and teaching them to teach the ones coming behind them.
Won’t you pray for these and all children to know the hope of their calling in Christ?
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying “whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’” Then I said, “Here I am. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8
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