Today I was able to hang out with a couple friends of mine who I attended seminary with in the Philippines. Through an interesting chain of events my friend Steve who is 61, Rueben who is in his 40′s, and I all live in the Twin Cities Rueben is a Russian man who taught seminary (and will be teaching at North Central University in the fall) and is in the US on medical referral. I hung out with Steve a lot when we lived in Baguio, Philippines and we studied together. So its so cool when I can catch up with them.
As many of you know, my neighborhood isn’t the nicest in the world. I guess many people might be scared to live where we do or would never consider it as a place to raise a family. I believe God has divinely led us to live in our neighborhood and I love my neighbors. They bring a sense of diversity, perspective, and spunk to the city. I was hanging out with our team here the other day and said, “We live in a wild and crazy neighborhood. I like it!”
While we were chatting at the park today, two drunk guys started to get into a fight. They were going back and forth when Steve tried to break it up. Another man came on ths scene to split it up and he threw one of the men on the ground in the process. Drunk people are kind of lopsy-topsy already so the guy fell pretty easily Perhaps the most amusing part of the whole scene was that the guy who split up the fight took the liquor from the man he threw on the ground. I think the only reason he broke up the fight was to get some more booze. Crazy.
A few minutes later a cop car pulled into the park and took two of the guys away. I think there must have been some phone calls because one of the guys was pretty much passed out on the ground. A few minutes later another drunk guy came to the picnic table where Rueben, Steve, and I were sitting and was awfully confused. He didn’t have his shoes on and had no idea where he was.
None of these guys would be classified as “refugees”, meaning people I work with on a daily basis. But they are my neighbors and many refugees walked through the park as all of this transpired. These are people who live in my hood. I walked away today thinking that I don’t want to become a person who ignores my neighbors. It is pretty true that there is little you can do to help a drunk person; at the same time, I want to continue to “see” my neighbors. I feel like so many of them aren’t even seen. It is pretty much as if they don’t even exist to the general population.
I have noticed that since I returned from overseas that I have no problem relating and talking with people who are quite diferent from me, of different ethnic background, etc (all of whom were today at the park). I get a coment almost weekly about how large of a cultural distance there is between “us” and “them” . . . and perhaps I just don’t understand because this is my life and has been for 7 years now. I sometimes take for granted how living in the awkwardness of a different culture is normal by now. I can’t document this but I feel like many people have drawn an imaginary line around my neighborhood and labeled it “Invisible,” at least to the down and outer. I can’t expect very many people to even want to do what Charity and I do on a daily basis; I just wish that imaginary line could be erased. My neighbors aren’t invisible. I talk to them and know their names. They are very, very real.
So many of the students I tutor feel invisible. To their family they are valued, but to the average American they are just a stupid person who can’t learn the languge fast enough. The seemling slow our CEO world down. I ache for my students and my neighbors. I feel their pain. I hug them. I see them. I cry with them.
And any amount of care I have only scratches the surface of how visible my friends are to God. I can’t comprehend that kind of love and presence. I’m so glad the we serve a right now, totally present God. He sees us and knows our names.