Cans, pans and a keg

Today's big lesson I would throw in the category of "life education" for both me and the kids. We got an up close and personal view of this broken world, and what God would have us do to spead hope.

We dropped by the mission and I sent Giles inside to deliver something for me, and I saw Ralph by the dumpsters. My first thought was that maybe he wouldn't recognize me, and I could act like I didn't see him.

But of course, he walked by the van, and I rolled the window down and said HEY! He immediately ungloved his hand and shook mine.

He had been collecting alumnium. For money. I was glad to see him to let him know that we missed him last night at worship time (he had eaten a free lunch somewhere else and was too full to come!) and that Cheryl had saved the aluminum serving pans for him.

He had collected so much aluminum that morning, including the aforementioned pans that were left behind the dumpster, that he couldn't haul it all to the place. He'd pay me to give him a ride.

Scenario: Woman in minivan with three small children. Asked to go to a place that she knows is "scary."

But what am I gonna tell him? No, I'm afraid, and I would get in big trouble if I put someone like YOU in my car alone. You are not to be trusted. YOU COULD BE DANGEROUS.

Sure, I said. Let's load up.

Meantime, I called inside the mission really quick to my brother-in-law who works there. Scott, would you take a ride with us. Sure. He said. And was out in a flash.

Off we went ... with him, Scott, me and three kids in the minivan loaded with two bags of beer and pop cans, the aluminum trays and an old keg someone had given him.

Along the way, we learned his girlfriend was in jail ... again. He had bailed her out last time for $250 (that's a lot of cans) but this time the bail was six grand. She had blown her court appearance and that's why she was picked up again. What was she in for to begin with, I asked? Stealing a car.

Yes. The kids are hearing all of this too, and smelling the smell of cheap stale beer for the first time. It was from the cans, Ralph insisted.

I was so happy God shut my mouth and let Scott take over with the encouragement. Scott's recovering himself (almost 11 months!!!) and told him that he needs to quit helping her that way, because she's not going to learn if she knows he'll keep getting her out of trouble.

The scenery on the way to this place opened my eyes to more squalor than I knew existed in our city. This was all less than a mile or two from our home. House after boarded up house marked with gang graffitti. Hungry dogs chained to porches. Trash and dilapidated houses pervaded everything. You won't see any of this in a tourism brochure, or in the mayor's campaign material!

Then we passed an elementary school. Named for the author of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, though I say, Mr. Twain would roll over if he knew his name was on the place. Stray pitbulls were on the school grounds. My heart immediately broke for the children inside. Innocent children. Not that poverty in itself is deplorable. Lots of worse things than being poor if you have a loving family. But I know enough about OKCPS to know that those teachers have low morale, most of the kids' home lives are probably a wreck and English is not spoken, and hardly anyone who gets a paycheck from there was happy to be there. I know that is extremely judgemental of me to say, but I bet I'm not wrong.

By this time, we had neared the aluminum place and he had us drop him off so he could finish crushing his cans. We passed several more guys just like him, trudging in with the aluminum (past the school).

How much money will this get you, I asked. About $20, he guessed.

What did we learn? Offer the ride.
I pray the kids saw and learned and they will remember. And they will realize this world is NOT our home. And there is a segment of our world, in our city, that desperately needs compassion. (And not to ever get so far from Jesus that they end up that way!!!!)

I just asked Lydia what she thought of that experience today and she said, "it's not fair."

Yep, sweetie, no one ever said that life was fair.