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Archive for March, 2018

Friday morning I awoke–one week to the day into a girls spring break adventure–with intense ear pain.  I’d no longer make my Sunday flight, and acted quickly to take the first Greyhound towards our current home.

The timing of the bus route forced Stephen to take a half-day at work in order to drive four and a half hours to meet me at the half-way point.  The alternative would have been an additional 9 1/2 hours of bus rides and bus station breaks.  His response to the options was a gracious “I would have driven all the way to Nashville to bring you home.”

One bus.  Four stops.  Both mine and my friends wish for the day were met: I had the morning hours without a seatmate and was able to finally sleep, and, the afternoon hours I conversed with a retired Army Colonel.

Nashville was the beginning of the route.  I thought I nearly missed my bus.  I had felt anxiety as I never had before to the point of forgetting the pain in my ear…for the time anyways.

8:20 am. As the sleepy crowd awaited our late boarding time, a young, disheveled mother used a loud voice and harsh language with her son and everyone around her who made the environment out of her control.  A spilled drink seemed as the end of the world.  Eight hours later it made much more sense, when her son asked me for a drink saying he hadn’t eaten or drank anything all day.  I was observing, and although his statement was not the complete truth, his mom struggled to supply her two kids and herself with one vending machine drink the entire ride.

“Family boarding” hollered the bus attendant.  The young, disheveled mom was grumbling about a man who passed her on his way to the bathroom.  She didn’t notice the attendant’s announcement.  “Family boarding,” she said again. Still no budge from the mom.

Just minutes before, her son looked to me and asked “Are we cutting you?” I responded after a slight giggle, “No you aren’t, that was a great question though.” 

One family boarded as they spoke in Swahili–a mom with her son and daughter.  “Family boarding,” and it seemed to be the last announcement before all others were invited onto the bus.  So I reached out to the boy, “Hey bud” which got his mom suspicious, so I pointed them (mom, son, and daughter) to family boarding.  They went.  My eyes and ears were curious and observant of this family.

On the bus, in my half sleep state, I overheard the son speaking to the other young boy on the bus, “Girls like guys who have muscles, who make them breakfast in bed, and who have money and nice cars.”  They also had a rap battle in which the boy rhymed about his experience being bullied in school, and played with the sister and her puppets.

I held onto that line for hours thinking “how can I communicate the deeper meaning of what girls like to these young boys?”

About every 20 minutes I’d hear “Aiden” and glance over to the young, disheveled mom glaring at her son.  It was one of those looks that communicates to every part of a person’s being, saying “you’re doing something wrong.  Knock it off before I have to do something more about it.”  Needless to say, I learned the boy’s name.

1:45 pm came along.  Stephen was on the road. I reboarded the bus, took my new seat–the row right in front of the two boys.  And then the new travelers boarded.  I heard a disgruntled “Sorry, there’s no more seats. I have to sit here” from the vet, as though I had rolled my eyes at him and said something mean.  Several minutes into the bus ride he changed his view of me, calling me “a good person” with my “heart in the right place.”

We’d spoken about his military experience, his divorce, his daughter’s divorce, what he does with his grandkids when he visits, about my husband’s military experience, about my degree, about his degree, about Stephen’s degree, about our desire to foster and foster-adopt, and then, Rodd had nothing more to say and we were quiet.

I started paying more attention to the kids behind me.  The brother and sister were bickering with each other and the girl was blaming the young boy for going back on his word.  And there was my opportunity.

I turned around and started in, “Hey Aiden…” We talked about being considerate and caring for others’ feelings, and, we talked about integrity and being the person you want to be and doing as you say, or as he reflected back “walking the talk.”

At this point, his mom heard his voice, “Aiden.”  Rodd butted it, “she’s okay, he’s not doing any harm.”  To which, she remarked, “you must be a school counselor for these boys not to be bothering you?”  I didn’t even have to reply, I stayed focus with Aiden, while Rodd gave her my qualifications–the ones he had just learned during our conversation.

Just a bit later, nine-year-old Aiden was charged with caring for his sister.  He remarked “She  cries, then she comes to me and she’s okay.”  He started in, hypothesizing: “is….being considerate?”  I took every opportunity to reinforce him in the final hour I sat on the bus with him.  Rodd helped me out some too.  Turns out Rodd and Aiden’s family are to live within miles of each other.

Aiden decided to dress me up like himself at one point.  I was completely turned towards him.  I asked if they were moving to Florida to get away from the bullying and physical abuse he experienced at his last school.  He shared about a car accident–the car flipped as if it were doing “cart wheels” he said.  He mentioned a name, so I inquired.  He then lipped “Mom’s girlfriend.”  I asked if he was embarrassed and if that’s why he didn’t say it out loud, he replied “the kids at school make fun of me for it, and the principal didn’t believe me.  That’s why he did what he did.”

This kid has a LOT of brains considering the lack of environment conducive of brain development.  As Rodd said, “he has a lot of potential to change” his family patterns.

Aiden inquired about my husband and I got to speak of how Stephen is considerate and full of integrity.  I was so grateful for Stephen’s willingness to come out of his way and get me to bring me home.

His act was selfless.  His love for me was backed by selfless action. 

My ask.  My ask was selfish.  Yes, I was indeed sick.  Yes, I love my husband and desired in the midst of sickness to be in no one else’s presence but his.  But the concept of selfishness here is the reminder that I love him sometimes (and more often than I’d like to admit) with an expectation of something in return. 

The crazy thing about love, that can’t (or I don’t think can) be communicated to a nine-year-old boy, is that we selflessly watch out for the needs of those we love by first and foremost being aware of our own selfish needs and seeing how those get fulfilled. 

Aiden taught the other boy: “Girls like guys who have muscles, who make them breakfast in bed, and who have money and nice cars.” It’s the message our society teaches.  He learned it from Fast and the Furious specifically.  Muscles speaks to physical health and confidence.  Making breakfast in bed speaks to the consideration and intentionality to serve another.  Money and nice cars speaks to security.  We all have the instinct to be secure, connected to others, and to be healthy.  It’s rather odd that the same thing can be said and share a message of ego and selfishness, and, the same thing can be said and share a meaning of meeting the needs of other.

There is so much more to love than the physiological needs when one spouse is sick.  So much more.  However, in the instance of being states apart and feeling stuck, all I knew was that I needed to find a way to be more comfortable and in the presence of the one person I was confidence would seek out my best interests, even when I can’t.

In our last minutes together, Aiden created a game for us “we’re going to go back and forth.  You go first, then I’ll go, then your turn again.”  At first, we answered “what would you do if you could do anything for one day and not get in trouble?”  Then, he began to inquire more deeply on some of our answers: “If I had a million dollars, would you take it from me?” After I gave him a reason I wouldn’t, he rephrased, “If I had 80 million dollars, I would give you 50, and keep the 30.  Do you think I should share it with people who disrespect my mom?”

He was speaking of his grandmother.  His grandmother and mother argue whenever they discuss the kids.  We discussed, briefly, about loving someone and wanting the best for them, and having a hard time when that doesn’t happen.

_________________________________________________________

Please pray with me for Aiden (9), Lilly (3), and their mother.  Also, for Amber who cracked her ribs in the car accident, and, their aunt who they are moving in with.  Pray for their new schools and the community who has the potential of supporting this young boys’ growth.   Please, along with me, keep confessing when we think too much of ourselves, and plead with God to continue the sanctification process in you as we each are molded more into the likeness of Christ as we care for others through His gracious love.  Although I do not believe he could manage 80 million dollars well today, this gracious kid can meet a lot of people’s needs for security, connection, and health in the future if he keeps growing with the support and encouragement of others.  Let us commit to the servanthood of being present and intentional with the people in front of us in all circumstances.

And Jesus, help us as we seek you along the way. Amen.

 

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