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Whippershappers

I'm pretty good at being an old man. Maybe better than being a young one, some would say. What I mean is, things like getting going slow, waking up early, enjoying a scotch on the rocks and watching The Andy Griffith Show come naturally to me.  They always have. I used to love piddling around with my Grandfather, lazily going to lunch or shopping for cars (which he would take months to purchase, to the chagrin of the salesmen he made sure to spend lots of time talking to). Those were great relationship-building days, by the way, which I think a slower life lends itself well to.

The thing is, though, I'm not really old. I'm only 32. But since moving to a big city, and experiencing a different slice of life out here, I am finding new ways to feel old. Things move faster here, which is a given -- I can deal with that. I still drive slow and consider it my mission to slow this city down. People are more career-focused -- I've been there and can relate. They often choose work over family or rest -- to each his own I suppose, though I have some harsher feelings about that. But one thing that has been a little harder to deal with is what I encounter at the local parks, the haven for my children. We visit a park nearly every day, and I love living close enough to walk to them, but they aren't always kid-friendly, which has been a difficult transition for me.

Taken before going to lunch at Ryan's, my grandfather's favorite buffet.

First off, the parks where I live are dirty. You can feel it in the sand. There is trash everywhere. I usually pick up some trash when I'm there, but it keeps coming. The thing is that it is usually snack food waste, which means some punk kids (there's the old man in me) are eating their Takis and then tossing the bag on the ground. What the heck?! Didn't someone tell them not to do that? It's everywhere though, and a standard of inner city life.

The second thing I noticed is that more teenagers hang out at the local parks. What prompted this blog post is a recent trip when I took the girls to a park before lunch, mid-morning. A group of high school kids were just hanging at the park (at 10AM?!). Of course they were cussing and saying lots of derogatory things about each other that I didn't want the girls to hear. (An aside: I'm pretty sensitive to the negativity amongst kids towards each other, and the youth pastor in me just wants to jump in and tell them to stop! Be nice to each other. Encourage each other. There is enough negativity in this world, don't add to it to make yourself feel better!) And then they were smoking weed, which brought the whole thing to a head.

Why aren't these kids in school, I thought in my old man sort of way. Damn whippersnappers... I wasn't really sure what to do. Would asking them to stop help anything? My kids are going to be exposed to this stuff inevitably, when is the appropriate age for it to happen? Should I have called the cops, or would that just make things worse? Again, the youth pastor in me wanted to befriend them and show how following Jesus brings a healing and helping that all this weed and negativity can never do, but am I even the person to show them that?

I ended up just leaving, feeling a bit sheepish for not making some sort of comment, but again, I was at a loss. The next day I returned and the park was silent, peaceful even. We played a little bit, which is when I found cat poop in the sandbox. Great, I thought, Another reason to not come to this park. But shouldn't I be more comfortable handling this city-life? One reason we came here was to give the girls a more exposed life, interacting with people who didn't look or sound like them. This is just part of that, right?

But as the days wear on, I find myself gravitating to the parks about seven miles up the highway in the nice part of town. They are clean, shady with big trees (my main reason for going, actually). The people there are nice and don't smoke weed or cuss. High schoolers don't loiter on equipment designed for kids, because they are probably doing their homework or volunteering somewhere. (Right?) Is it wrong to want to go to these parks, where it is clean and safe?

You're probably saying to yourself, "Of course, Rick! You're doing the right thing. Keep your kids safe and tell those pot-heads where to go if you ever stoop to the low of the local park again." I probably should have said something to those kids, you're right. But again, if we are in this neighborhood, I want to be a part of it, and that means taking it for all its good and bad parts. That is what Jesus did, right? Met people where they were at, hanging out with the lowly and marginalized. I don't know where Jesus would live if he were in Los Angeles, but I doubt it would be in the nice parts of town, where everyone has it all "figured out." And I don't think he would be afraid to take kids to a shady area every now and then, if not for the locals, for their own sakes.

Comments

  1. This reminds me of when you and J didn't have a safe clean park to go skate at in West Ashley. Maybe take a page from Mom's book and see how you can get involved? It would definitely be a way to show the girls how to be a part of your community and not leave it for 'better pastures'. Is there a neighborhood Facebook or neighborhood watch? Local church? Maybe organize a clean-up or reach out to the local boy scouts and see if anyone needs a project for earning their eagle scout?

    As for those 'hooligans' ... I think it's easy for all of us to back away and just not say anything when we find ourselves in similar situations. A lot of times we do it because of fear, but what are we scared of? Getting the cold shoulder? Some crass comment? Getting judged? We never know when mentioning an alternative to their actions could inspire someone to change. Maybe next time take a moment, close your eyes, take a breath, and remember that you don't need to feel that fear because you are filled with the spirit. Let yourself be led. - R

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    Replies
    1. Those are all good ideas Rachel! Man, when did you get so wise?!

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