Monday, August 30, 2010

The Good Samaritan

So, what do you do when you're walking out of the church at 7:45 on a Sunday evening right after you've led a lesson about The Good Samaritan and encounter a strange looking fellow and a pregnant woman walking toward you from a white pickup truck parked next to your orange vibe?

"Hey man. I told my sister here that you was good folks down here. She's had to get away from her husband. She's eight months pregnant. And we was lookin' to get to Dixon tonight. I don't got nothin' to give her, but if you could give us some cash to buy some gas to get to Dixon, that would be real helpful."

To be clear, this woman was definitely late in her pregnancy as far as I could tell.

"Well," I say, "I've got a few bucks in my wallet, but that's it. The morning offering has already been taken to the bank, and we don't keep extra cash lying around." (All of these statements are true, by the way)

"Is there a gas station around here?"

At this point, my internal monologue says, "Hey, remember how you just did a lesson about The Good Samaritan and challenged the youth to think about the people on the margins?"

"Sure," I say. "I'm headed north of here and there's an Exxon a few miles up the road. I'll pay to fill up your truck."

"Well, that's be just great."

As I walk closer to the truck, I notice that it's full of people. I mean, there are six potential seats in there, and all of them are full once the man and his "sister" get inside.

To keep things relatively short, I paid for them to fill up their truck, and as he was pumping his gas, the guy asked if I could use the ATM and help his sister out with some cash. I told him I wasn't going to do that, but I was glad to buy the gas.

Now, I get hit up with the "We just need enough money to get to Somewhereville" story a lot, especially on evenings when I'm the last one left at church. Most of the time, when I say I don't have cash, the people drive off. Occasionally they take me up on the offer of gas, but when my credit card bill comes in, they only pumped $4 in gas.

All of this is to say that I now have a new answer to the question I asked the youth: Why did the priest/pastor walk by the man on the road?

Because sometimes you just get tired of being hustled and lied to. Because sometimes you wonder if the person is really hurt, or at least if the hurt they're claiming to have is true. Because sometimes you wish they would just tell you that they need drugs, alcohol, or whatever. Because what you really want to do is heed MLK's call to fix the road so that people don't get beat up.

Anyway, it's 7:45 on a Sunday evening and you're approached in the church parking lot. What do you do?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Emergency Bowling Banquets

Jeff Fiedler, the former director of The Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps used to say, "There are no emergency bowling banquets." His basic point was that most things in life are scheduled way in advance, and part of growing up is learning to pay attention to when things are scheduled and then prioritize where you will be and when. Put another way, "A lack of preparation/attention on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part."

I'm blogging today to express my frustration with a certain volleyball coach who, this past Sunday, put one of my youth in the uncomfortable position of having to choose between an "emergency" last minute volleyball practice and the first youth group meeting of the school year. "When did the coach schedule the practice?" you might ask. I would answer, "Thursday afternoon." Yes, this coach added a practice three days ahead of time, and the entire team was expected to drop any other previously scheduled events (youth group kickoff was scheduled in June, btw) and attend said practice under threat of sitting the bench all week if they missed it. My wonderfully committed and dedicated middle school youth attended youth group on Sunday night, and thus, at yesterday's game, on her father's birthday, sat the bench.

This past summer, another youth was notified of summer drum camp two weeks ahead of time, making him miss out on a mission trip that he had signed for three months ahead of time.

This is a trend that seriously bothers me. Hear me say that I understand the need to be committed to one's sport or musical/dramatic/whatever I left out activity and should plan to be at all scheduled rehearsals, practices, games, performances, or whatever. I was in band through high school and college and didn't miss rehearsal. I was also on the golf team and attended practice and matches dutifully. I am not calling into question the need for practice and dedication. What I take issue with is coaches or directors treating their activity as if it's the only important thing in their students' lives. Young people these days have crazy busy schedules, and many of them do a great job balancing all of their commitments. Why make their lives more difficult by calling "emergency" last minute anythings? What if I called the volleyball coach two days before a scheduled game and said the following? "We've had to schedule an emergency last minute youth group to make sure the youth are ready for Sunday worship. If Suzie Q misses that meeting, she'll have to sit and face the corner and be unable to participate in worship. I'm sure you understand."

Shame on you coach whatever-your-name-is. If you can't get enough accomplished during your scheduled time, I suggest you re-evaluate how you're using your time. Don't put young people in the awkward and stressful position of having the choose between things that are important to them because you don't have your act together.

Monday, August 16, 2010

First They Came...

In response to some recent comments on my previous post about the Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, I post this poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller

"THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

and by that time no one was left to speak up."