22 April 2014

The Word on the street

Monday is the day my neighbor boys come to get their crackers...it's a system that works pretty well for us. Well, when they actually come on Monday, that is. Our deal is that I buy them twelve small packs of crackers: seven are for them (one per day), and five to share with others. That's supposed to be our deal--and if they ask for other things, don't bother coming on Monday. The problem is that people who are hungry have a hard time waiting.

J followed me through the grocery store last week. I'm sure he thought he was being stealthy, pretending to look at diapers (which he doesn't need) and olive oil (which he can't afford) and shampoo  (which he probably doesn't know what it is). He followed us all the way to the car, then informed me in quiet tones that his sister was sick and couldn't I give them something today? I told him I didn't have anything for him, as the grocery store guy loaded two boxes of food into my car for the week. I felt like the biggest jerk on the planet, but it was actually true. I know how it seems to them--I see the look in their eyes. It's painful for both of us.

Then J came on Friday. "My sister's really sick. Couldn't I have my crackers today, then skip Monday? She's crying, she's so hungry..." Sigh. "Okay, but nothing on Monday, you understand? This is it, okay? W, do you want yours, too?" He started to say yes, but J signaled him no. I laughed. "Look out, W, he's got plans for your crackers!"

Then Monday came. 

Here they came. J, true to his word, asked for nothing but water, which they can always ask for culturally (and they always do). Then, an unexpected request--"I need to read the Bible," said W. I was taken back by the urgency in his voice. He usually studies the Jesus storybook bible with my neighbor Will, but she's out having her baby. He must be missing it. There's more than one kind of food, after all. 

I had excuses--laundry to hang, lunch to make--but it was too good an opportunity. Peter was sleeping, even. So there we sat on my front step, taking turns reading. W read so well that he corrected my pronunciation. J struggled with even the simple words. We read Zaccheus, which they knew already. "I love this story because I'm just like Zaccheus; I'm not a good person, either," I told them. Their mouths dropped open. "Oh, yes you are, you're a good person!" I shook my head. "Maybe on the outside, but God looks at the heart. I sin, too." I could see their wheels turning. "Why does Jesus say that God has saved him?" I asked. We talked about the difference between saying you're a follower of Jesus and acting like it. We talk about generosity and how easy it is to love money.

I asked if that was enough reading: nope, still hungry. One more was needed. So we read the prodigal son, which they hadn't heard. The Kreyol is beautifully written: "The son who lost his way." The teacher in me came out--"What do you think the father will say when the son comes back? Will he be angry?" 

"Oh yes," they both agreed. "The father will say, 'Get out of here, you ungrateful boy.'" But as many of you may know, he doesn't say that at all. We talked about how making our own way never works out for long. We talked about love. We talked about fathers. 

As I stood up to go inside, they made sure I knew that this brand of crackers was inferior to the ones I'd bought last week. And yet I went inside refreshed...isn't it strange how something that was supposed to be about them ends up blessing me?

I started to make lunch and saw this year's Hearts at Home verse on the fridge..."teach your children as you sit at home and walk along the road..." Maybe sitting in the road with two adolescents counts, too. They're not my children--if they were, they wouldn't be hungry. But at least for today, their stomachs and souls will be satisfied. 

W on his way home, crackers in pocket.

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