I heard the sound of breaking glass and then I saw two boys running away as if their lives were at risk. I noted it and when I came back to my car, I decided to investigate.
I pulled into the driveway of the house where I saw the two boys run. My headlights showed their outlines. "Excuse me..." I called out.
The smaller boy came forward.
"Oh, hi," I said, "I just heard something glass break on the corner and then I saw two boys run away to this house. Did you just break something down there?"
The wide eyed boy said, "No...."
"Are you lying?" I asked him.
"No....." he said.
"Well, if you see two boys who are running around out here, you might want to ask them to clean up whatever it was that broke. Don't want any cars to get flat tires..."
"Uh huh...." he said, still watching me as if I was nuts.
"Well, you have a happy New Year!" I said, backing out of the driveway.
The smaller boy went back to the bigger boy and they headed toward the inside of the house. I have no idea if they went to clean up the mess. I do know that that sweet little boy who I am pretty sure was lying will remember this occasion.
Earlier today I bumped into two brothers who live not far from me. Their home, for now, is an abandoned school. They used to live in a shanty town of sorts behind a local big box hardware store most people drive by without noticing. They are homeless, one is twenty-years-old and the other is twenty-four-years-old. The elder brother has schizophrenia. I am working to build a stronger relationship with him. The younger brother and I have been dear friends for a while now. I have brought them socks, sweatshirts and food countless times.
Judgement never crosses my face when I speak with them. I just show compassion and care, not a moment of patronizing. I thought after I left them this morning how the younger brother greets me with a wide smile, as if a favored auntie is paying a visit.
I have stuck up for them to restaurant workers and called them my friends.
These are two very different and very similar episodes.
You know that saying, "I am not my brother's keeper"?
Well, I am both the keeper of my brothers and my sisters.
If this world is going to change for the better, we need to love one another first.
Homeless mentally ill people need friends more than anything else. Many of them are petrified of social workers and health care people, but they are happy to see friends who feed them, who talk to them, who actually care not because we are paid to care, but because we are a fellow member of the human community.
Those little boys, I didn't want them to get in trouble for what was probably an accident, I wanted them to think and to know not all adults will turn them over to other adults, but will instead call them to personal accountability and call them to consider what is right or wrong rather than smash their face in it. After all, I don't know for certain they were the ones who broke whatever broke.
Maybe brother's keeper is the wrong term for what I do. I prefer to think of myself as a brother and sister lover.
The more of us who are out there, loving our community and the people in it, the better our world will be. Especially if we do so not because we are professional social workers or therapists or missionaries, we are doing so because we love the world and one another.
You never know whose life you may be changing.
Samuel will get over his embarrassment AND he will remember chatting with homeless young men and calling some other boys to accountability.
Loving the world through loving others: this is exactly who and what I want to be doing. I know many people aren't as comfortable as I am in helping others at this level. That's fine, too.
You can be your brothers and sisters lovers in ways that you are comfortable and simultaneously challenging for you. When I befriended Garrett, the homeless younger brother, I was mumbling and complaining about people begging.
When I looked up and saw this child's face, my life changed forever. Now I can't turn away.
What about you? Whose life will you change?
Julie Jordan Scott is a writer, performance poet, Mommy and mixed-media artist. Her word-love themed art will be for sale at a First Friday soon, when it is warmer than it was in December!, in Downtown Bakersfield. Check out the links below to follow her on a bunch of different social media channels, especially if you find the idea of a Word-Love Party bus particularly enticing.
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