Tuesday 1st May 2012 @ 11:18 am
I might as well write something.
Or even better, I might as well put on here a writer who never fails to inspire me. Here is the latest ‘letter’ from Bart Campolo …
I was on the third floor of our house a few weeks ago, talking on the phone, when I noticed a small hole in the wall over my desk. I didn’t think much of it until a few hours later, when I opened the drapes and found matching holes in the double–paned window behind me. I connected the dots, of course; the bullet wouldn’t have hit me if Marty and I had been home the night before, but it surely would have freaked us out.
Instead, it just made us feel stupid. Really, despite all the guns, alcohol, and ignorance in this neighborhood, chances are slim that anyone in my family will get shot. On the other hand, if something really bad ever does happen, we’re going to look like total idiots for staying, especially when we so often wonder what difference it makes.
Marty and I planned to keep the matter to ourselves. When Roman called home from college, however, I ended up telling him I wasn’t sure the rewards here were worth the risks. Before I knew it, he was giving me my own pep talk.
“Come on, Pops,” he said, “it’s definitely worth it. Think about all the people in that neighborhood who are better off because of the fellowship. Their lives still may be totally messed up, but they get to be part of something good, they have really positive friendships they would never have on their own, and they have something special to look forward to every week. What you guys do there matters.”
Hearing that from my son made me feel better, of course, but it took more than that to convince me.
Every year or so, we give folks two weeks’ notice to get ready for what may be the world’s oddest show–and–tell talent show. It is mainly for the kids, of course, but we encourage everyone to participate in some way, and pretty much everyone does. One year Nick brought his baseball glove and explained why he likes playing, Dre did a standing backflip, Emily burped on command, and little Majesty sang a Temptations song acapella. Last year Ronnie read an endless and incomprehensible science–fiction movie review until I finally got up and stopped him (and simultaneously instituted the much–beloved five–minute limit). Regardless, according to prior instruction everybody gets a huge ovation.
This year, as we cleared away the dinner plates and rearranged the chairs, I put my arm around Jimmy, a quiet old man who smoked and drank with our friend Chester, and who surprised us all by continuing to come to dinner after Chester died last year. Even so, none of us have had much success talking with Jimmy, and he still barely acknowledges us when we see him on the street. Mostly he seems to endure our company in exchange for a home–cooked meal.
“I’m glad you made it tonight, Jimmy,” I said. “Oh, I wouldn’t have missed it,” he replied with a smile. “I came to read my poem.” Really, you could have knocked me over with a feather at that point, but I didn’t let on. Instead, I gave my “applaud no matter what” speech and started the show.
Ronnie’s act was mercifully short this time, Zach played his harmonica, Marty showed off our beloved tandem bike, and Lexus read her A–plus science report on volcanoes before I finally called on Jimmy, half–expecting him to beg off at the last minute. Instead, he walked to the front of the room, pulled a dog–eared paper out of his jacket, and read aloud in a clear voice.
When Jimmy finished, we all sat in stunned silence for a moment before we began to cheer. “I haven’t heard that many words out of you in two years!” Mark called to him as he returned to his seat grinning. The show went on, of course, but I couldn’t get what Jimmy said out of my mind. Afterwards, however, he slipped away before I could thank him. Marty got the poem, though:
This Is The Place That My Friend Chester Harris Brought Me To
I Was Unsure And Didn’t Know What To Do
But Now That Bart And Marty Have Helped Me Through
With All The Good Loving And All The Good Food
I Have A New Loving Family And Christian Love Too.
We framed it, of course, and hung it right where it belongs, covering the bullet hole over my desk.
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