Monday, July 27, 2009

One year and 2 Championships later

I celebrated my one year anniversary about a week and a half ago. I can't believe that it's already been one year since I've moved to Pittsburgh. Many things have happened in that year and I'm excited to see what's in store for the upcoming year. Can you believe that in my first year that both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Penguins win the Lombardi and Stanley cup! I think the people of the 'burgh have done all they can to make me feel welcome.

I've done a lot of reflection over the past year and I feel that what's happening and how I'm being used has really come to light over the past week. While waiting for my church services to start a man came up to me (this man has lived his whole life as an african american in the northside) and told me that I must be doing something right as african american teenage boys don't hang out with adult males too often as they've been betrayed by their adult role models so often in their upbringing. (bear in mind he was generalizing and painting with a broad brush) This is about the 4th time I've had an african american adult come up to me and say this over the last month. I even had a lady who told me this and then gave me a hug and as I hugged her she grabbed my hand and put $50 there! (Those of you who have teenagers know it's not cheap to feed them)

Let's go back to last year and what I thought my life would look like and then what it looks like now. This is important, my calling to Pittsburgh was to be an assistant to Jeff Hartings so he could fully utilize his resources in the Northside. Those of you who know the story of Saul and David from the bible will relate to this, I was to be Jonathan's (King Saul's son) armor bearer.

I remember when coming out here I thought I'd be part of the fundraising arm of Urban Impact working through their "Play Ball for Kids" program in utilizing the Steeler players to get the local business engage with their resources (people, money, facilities) in helping the Northside. I figured that I'd be golfing with guys and having meetings, talking to Steeler players and getting them utilized in our programs. I get to Pittsburgh and I find out the Jeff and I are going to be running our high school basketball team in a saturday league along with doing our other outreach basketball programs during the week. I thought, ok this is what Jeff is having me do, so be it. After the leagues were over baseball came and Jeff and I were put in charge of the whole baseball program. With all that being said, it's one year later and what I had envisioned for my life in Pittsburgh is totally different than how I thought it would look. This doesn't change the fact that I felt I was called to Pittsburgh and called pretty strong. Again my calling to Pittsburgh was to assist Jeff in his duties with Urban Impact.

I've recently have had some great validations that I'm right where I should be. One of them happened early monday morning as I was walking through the park to get coffee and a couple of the 11-12 year old boys I knew called out to me. We started talking and they wanted to know when we could hang out. (I know now that this isn't "normal" behavior for young African american men). Sunday, I called one of my regular boys to see if he wanted to attend church with me. He couldn't but he would be free later, I told him I'd pick him up. I went to pick him up and he had 3 other guys with him who wanted to hang. I picked them up and picked up number 5 and 6 down the street. Come to find out 3 of them dropped what I considered better plans to hang out at my tv'less apartment and eat chili dogs. These guys will hang out on Friday and Saturday nights if I wanted them to. There is no way that as a 16-18 year old that I was every going to hang out with an overweight, balding 45 year old who doesn't let them swear and talk inapproipately. But hang out the do!

I know that I'm sure I'll disappoint one or two of them over time but right now I'm amazed at the relationships i've built and how God has worked through me in these kids lives.

Stay tuned as I move into year 2!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Baseball Season

Baseball season ended last week and I'm still recovering. Who would've thought that running 5 teams in a baseball league could be so tiring. Since Memorial Weekend I felt I was working 12 hours a day, I almost thought I was a Scientology staff member again. When Jeff and I decided to run the Urban Impact Baseball program I must admit that we did it more out of duty rather than something we felt called to do. We were being good employees. I must admit that for the first few months (March/April)I felt like I was going through the motion of running a program. Then something hit me. I was at the ballfield and I noticed that one of the mothers was at the field with a bunch of kids playing ball. This mother, I must admit, was someone who I steered clear of due to built in prejudices. She was what we would call in my suburbia world, "White trash". She had all the traits and character of that.

The holy spirit somehow softened my heart and prejudices and allowed me to see this woman as someone who God's loves and created. From this point on I was able to not only have a relationship with her but with others also whose lives and experiences are so much different from the one I have.

Before I go I've got an interesting story of a young man I've gotten to know through baseball. This young man comes to our office every afternoon during the school year to work on his school work. I know he comes from a broken family, his mom is a custodian and his dad is in prison. He has no relationship with his father. His mother does the best she can but I'm sure she has her demons. He has 2 older brothers and an older sister. This young man would help me with the snack stand throughout the season. If we made a decent amount of money I would try and pay him. The last night of baseball he came early to help set up and stayed late to help put everything away. I was able to give him a nice bit of money for helping. He asked if I could drive him to a store. I did thinking he would buy some candy or some other junk a 7th grader buys. He comes back in the car and I asked what he bought. He pulls out some socks and deodorant. I was dumbfounded, I didn't grow up with a lot of extras but I never had to worry about sock or deodorant or any other staples. Once again it showed how wide the divide between what these kids have and experience versus what I have and have experienced.