We have a little organization in our community that caters to the needs of the disadvantaged youth in our area. This organization has a center where the kids can go after school, and two nights a week, during the school year, the doors are open for the kids to come and hang out to play games and socialize with each other. This organization was developed in direct correlation with a questionnaire that was sent to all residents about what they would most like to see in our township. An old house has now been bought, and money is being raised to renovate that house, so that when a family of one of the kids who attends the center is in need (as happened a couple of years ago when a woman who had four young children was about to get kicked out of her apartment, putting them all on the street), they can have temporary housing and food.
I have volunteered a couple of times to help serve the “snack” at the center on Monday nights (one of the nights they are open), and my heart goes out to these kids. On the surface, they’re a bunch of noisy, rambunctious teenagers, into the video games the centre provides, dressed in the “coolest” of fashions for their set, all trying to prove how tough they are. However, this “snack” we serve is always something substantial (chili, tacos, barbecue, etc.), and they come back for seconds and thirds. They’ll eat just about anything we serve them without complaint, but they particularly love brownies, and I get a kick out of watching them gather around hopefully, before “snack time” has been announced, with their eyes on the brownies, trying to wheedle some out of us before they’ve been allowed to eat. These brownies never last long. My friend who bakes them has been known to say, “I could bring in 10 dozen brownies, and we still wouldn’t have enough.” Obviously, these kids don’t have anyone at home baking brownies for them.
I also see many of them out on the streets. They like to skateboard. They smoke. They walk around in groups. One of these days, I’m going to stop thinking about it and just stop and offer them a ride and talk to them. I’m pretty sure they’d resist at first, but I’m also pretty sure they’d eventually latch onto an adult who seems to care.
This community center has its faults, not the least of which, in my eyes, is that it was founded by a Christian organization that is pretty fundamental. However, the people who run it, the college kids who spend lots of time volunteering, and others who volunteer all love the kids and come to this special ministry with very good hearts and the best of intentions. It’s one of those places where those of us who can agree to disagree all come together for a better, higher cause, and that’s what Christianity should be all about. Working with the center, I am reminded that I need to remove the beam from my own eye before focusing on the speck in others’ eyes (Matthew 7:5).
However, sometimes the other person has a beam in his or her eye, too, and that just makes me hopping mad. I’m on the outreach committee at our church, and we voted recently to up our donations to this community center. I’d love to do even more, inspiring the kids to become involved in ecojustice and other outlets where they can feed a passion. My feeling is that there are some who can never be “saved,” so to speak. They are destined always to live on the fringes of society, perhaps to lead lives of crime. However, I would not be me if I didn’t believe that at least 90% of them are young enough that all they need is some positive intervention from truly caring people to help them find a better path, one that will capitalize on their innate talents and lead them to productive lives.
Imagine my astonishment, then, when I learned that one of the young members of our church expressed the opinion that he did not want us to give them so much money, because the kids who go there are all “drug addicts.” Huh? My immediate reaction was rage. This is where I get so frustrated with “talking the talk” and not “walking the walk.” What about all those bracelets a lot of the young people have taken to wearing that say, “What would Jesus do?” Is that mere talk? Or maybe these young people have not been taught what Jesus really would have done. So, here I am to tell you what I think he would have done (and why he’d probably be crucified all over again were he suddenly to appear in the majority of towns and cities across 21st-century
Jesus would not have turned his back on “drug-addicted” teenagers. He would have realized that the drug addiction was merely a symptom of deeper problems and pain. Just as he ate with prostitutes and tax collectors, just as he told stories about Good Samaritans, he would be right there today, at the center of this community, trying to help these poor lost kids – kids that society has dumped on all their lives. That’s what I believe. That’s why I’m a Christian. And the beam in my eye is that I don’t see how those who don't feel that way can call themselves “Christians.”