I Met you, Love you, Miss you.

The minute we got home from our trip in May we knew we had new neighbors.  It wasn’t just the empty boxes next to their driveway that clued us in, they were hanging onto the fence as though they had been waiting all 14 hours for us to get back. As soon as we stepped out of our vehicle we were surrounded by little people.

They started coming to our house to play.  Often.  Every day often.  Thirteen times a day often. Yes, I counted.

Soon I was hardly able to get .anything. done at all.  People are always more important than things, but some things need to get done so that people are taken care of.  I had to learn how to say no.

Our yard became the best hang-out spot on the block.  I had dreamed of that.  Zachary ran off his energy with new friends and came in sweaty, dirty, and with an enormous smile.  I had dreamed of that, too.  The front porch windows had handprints and forehead marks on the outside and on the inside.  It goes with the territory.  The eighth grader asked if I could help him with his (elementry level) reading.  I said yes.

There were parts that weren’t so nice.  Every time we came home from anywhere…every single time, the outdoor toys were scattered all over the yard.  Not a big deal.  If we really cared we would lock them away.  Also every time we came home the water was running…gushing.  It was a big deal.  You’d kind of have to know the way I save water left from supper to water the flowers and the way I always turn off the water while brushing my teeth to understand.  I didn’t get angry, but I was annoyed that someone was opening a closed gate to turn on the water.  And, really, if they had to use the water couldn’t they at least turn it off instead of letting it gush for who-knows-how-long?

Blah.  I knew that it was just another one of those boundaries that hadn’t been taught–just like entering a house without knocking, or taking a tour of the house without being invited or getting mail out of other people’s mailboxes hadn’t been taught.  It still bothered me.  I even asked people to pray about it.

Sometimes when the children came over I let them have a water fight.  They LOVED it.  When we told them to turn it off they always did.  As soon as we went back inside they would turn it on again.   We’d go out and tell them to turn it off.  They did…and turned it back on.  Again. And again.

One of the older boys (13) would play with Zachary mainly when he was bored.  When he’s around I always stay outside the whole time.  Often his games turned kind of mean…like asking Zachary to play basketball with him, but actually playing keep-away–teasing him by keeping the ball just within his reach, but yanking it away whenever Zachary got close.  One night I told him, “Look, you’re a lot bigger than Zachary and you could keep this ball away from him all night. That might be fun for you, but it’s not any fun for him.  You need to play in a way that is fun for you both, or then go home and come back when you’re ready to play nicely.”

He said okay.  A few minutes later things hadn’t changed at all. I reminded him of what I told him and asked if he wanted to play nice or go home.  He said he’d be nice….and he was.  That night I learned something important.  Everyone….Zachary, all the kids who were around, and I were a lot happier when there were rules and the rules were respected.

I started expecting them to respect our rules.  If they started fighting with each other and couldn’t get to a peaceful resolution even with some help, I sent them home.  If someone turned on the water after I told them not to or if they turned it on without permission, I sent them home.  I always said, something like, “We love to have you come play here, but when you are at our house you need to respect our rules.  I asked you not to turn on the water and you turned it on.  I’m sorry, but you’ll need to go home.  You may come back again when you’re ready to listen.”  (Soon when we came home the water wasn’t running anymore!)

One of the little girls would stalk off sulking, but it was Jabari who got angry.  Instead of going home, he wondered around the vacant lot across the street from our house and threw and punched the few things he could find.  He threw a metal band onto the street.  Sometimes he shouted, “I hate you,” when he was corrected.

There is something about little boys like that who find their way deep, deep in my heart.  For one thing, they are just as free with their love and their smiles as they are with their anger.  (Their anger is coming from a place of pain, and I feel sadness instead of feeling threatened.)  They are so honest with their emotions, their actions, and their questions.

And Jabari?  Well, he was so winsome.  It didn’t hurt him any that he was just plain CuTe and his curled eye-lashes were a mile long and his eyes always sparkled. Though I am Zachary’s Mom to the rest, Jabari called me Ms Christy.

Ms. Christy, can I come into your house again?

Ms Christy, I’m hungry.

Ms Christy, can Zachary come out and play?

–his questions always asked with that mile wide smile and his eyes that dance.

Soon he was most often respectful and sweet.  He had boundless energy. I often helped him change course, but now most often he’d grin, say, “Oh,” and change up his play to something better.

Why am I writing in past tense?  Well, because one day several weeks ago we were playing with him like usual; the next day he was gone.  Just like that. There was no warning.  There were no good-byes.  The house next door normally houses around six adults, often a few teenaged boys, and anywhere from two to six children. Jabari’s dad is one of the adults who is in and out.  Miyani says Jabari went to live with he gramma.

I wonder if he had any warning that he was leaving.  I wonder if he wanted to go and if he had a hard time adjusting. Sometimes I wonder if thinks about us, if he remembers little things he learned here, and if he knows how much we love him.  I wonder if he’s being taken care of well and if someone is building his character.

Mostly, though, I just can’t stop missing him.

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12 thoughts on “I Met you, Love you, Miss you.”

  1. Lump in my throat while reading this… I love your heart, your unselfishness, your home that is a home to more than just your family.
    I am just *loving* all your updates. I’m so glad you’re blogging again!!

    And your new watermark ~ beautiful and so professional.

  2. this made my heart sad for that little guy….so thankful that you could show him love.
    blessings to you!

  3. Wow! What a difference you are making in those kids lives. It seems like it’s stretching and growing you as well! I like your honesty in writing this and your hearts softness as you related and cared for God’s children.
    Sad I won’t get to meet them – or didn’t they all move away?

  4. love, love,love it! cause it brings back wonderfully sweet and painful memories of Liberia and the neighborhood parties we had almost daily with the fun, energetic, naughty little children. I miss them dearly and can only pray that their heavenly Father is taking care of them and allowing them to feel a little love, somehow, somewhere.

    You are so right…. the combination of love and boundaries are winning for both the children and those responsible for the. Funny how a little bit of structure can improve behavior so much!

    I commend you in your work. You know, your boys have an extra rich childhood; being encouraged to interact with other children so different than themselves, on many different levels. And who have parents that step up to the plate and are so actively involved with their playmates.
    Blessings abundant to y’all!

  5. This sounds so familiar. Our church has a Kid’s Club and just yesterday I made a disobedient boy leave the SS class I was subbing. I felt bad, esp. after I found out the reg. teacher lets him get by with murder. But I had a lot of affirmations that I did the right thing. One person said, “He’ll respect you because you set boundarties.” It’s so true. I can’t think of anything more rewarding than having the respect of a {bad} kid because you earned it.
    You are brave. I can be so selfish with my space.

  6. Wow, Christy! I admire how you take time for these little people! Too often I’m afraid I would think I wouldn’t have time…to my shame! =( May God give you wisdom to know how to reach out to these little ones!

  7. Christy- your words about love and boundaries bring me courage. I face a lot of the same challenges that you’ve described. I hate setting boundaries. Even though I love our neighbor kids to bits, I end up frustrated too many days because of my pathetic inability in setting clear consistent boundaries.
    Jabari knows more of Christ because of his interaction(s) with you and your family!!!!! And I am a firmly convinced that the “Jabaris” bring us to know more of Christ as well. Blessings as you continue to pour yourself out to the world around you!

    1. And sometimes I think of you when I’m in the middle of a situation. I feel so new at this and wonder how other moms handle things…I have so many questions.

      1. Well, after being here for 8 years I feel like I am still learning everyday and feeling heavy with my humanity and my mistakes at times. I’d love to visit you in Atlanta and meet your neighborhood flock and oh, yes, chat with you too!!! :)

  8. Christy, as I read this and sit here pondering it, it makes me wonder…I wonder what I would have done in these circumstances. Would I have been too scared to reach out? Would I have the guts to set boundaries and enforce them? Would I really LOVE the way you loved these children or would I have seen them (I’m embarrassed to say it) a nuisance? Thanks for challenging me to love, really love those that God brings into my life, even if they make dirty smudges on my windows!!

    It’s clear to me that God has placed you there and given you a high calling! You are making a difference! Only eternity will reveal how much! Love ya!

  9. Wow! I can’t imagine living where you do, but God bless you above and beyond for what you are doing for these kids! You are investing in eternity!

  10. Christy, you are an amazing, patient neighbor! I admire your willingness to reach out to the kids. I’m sure it’s not always easy to make boundaries, but you are so right….kids need, even long for, that kind of structure!
    You’re last paragraph made me cry. Some kids have it hard……it just doesn’t seem fair!
    Praying for you all~ God bless!!

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