Yesterday was an interesting day. I took the day off from work to take my rag tag band of the St. Marcus track team to the Wisco Grade school meet. I believe there were about 22 teams there. I only had 5 guys and 9 girls because 70% of the team went on the Washington DC, Discover America Trip for two weeks. My team's performance was admirable considering our low numbers.
I decided to take my rambunctious team to Gille's afterwards and get burgers and ice cream etc. I thought that would be a good end of season celebration. It did not occur to me how that would be received and it was interesting. The kids were just amazed that I would pay for their lunch. Over and over again they would thank me and ask how much they could order and thought it was going to cost a fortune. A couple kids, asked me point blank, "Are you rich?" I assured them that I am not rich...on the inside I was thinking about how rich I was to have worked 20 years to achieve my 1000 sq ft house in a working class neighborhood of Milwaukee with a morgage greater than the value of the home and my 4 older cars totaling 655,000 miles on them...etc etc. Boy am I rich alright... :-/
Coming from coaching in the suburban schools I did not think it too weird to spring for Dairy Queen for the kids or have a pizza party or I would bring donut's nearly every morning for the CC team. However clearly these kids did not have this kind of thing done for them...I'll have to assume hardly ever, since the looks on their faces were incredulous. The bill was hardly more than the bill for my family of 4 to eat at Outback. It brought a little more focus to the comments of Ike's friend from STM who came to our house last Friday for the evening. He was amazed at all the food we had and had himself a feast. Anyone who knows how little food we keep in our fridge (like every single friend of our children would confirm)..you would find that statement a bit odd.
So this was unsettling for me a bit. Even though my kid goes to an inner city school I don't actually get a good glimpse of the lives of these kids as individuals. I noticed in the season hardly any kids had proper running shoes. My legs ached just seeing them run in flats, and docksides, dress shoes, converse tennies, and even just socks. As much as I like the ...well.. uniformity of uniforms and its intended effect, to some degree the masking of one's financial condition makes someone like me...an inner city noob...not realize the individual stories behind each kid. I was contemplating this revelation as I drove a few members of the track team back down to St. Marcus for pick-up and end of day activities.
Back at St. Marcus, I was talking with Principal Boche about the day's events and such and he went off to attend to some parent's needs. While that was happening, the remaining track students were coming in from another vehicle and an elderly woman of about 68 or so very slowly followed them into the school. Being the only adult around for a moment, the kids were nodding for me to help the woman.
She was definitely worn by the years. Her lips had sores. She did not appear transient but by appearances seemed close to it. She seemed disoriented and I'm not sure whether it was a mental issue, alzheimers or just stress and despair. She was crying and said she needed help. I asked how I coulp help her. She said, "I can't live where I'm living now...I need help. I need help." The tears were just falling from underneath her glasses. Then she said..."I just need someone to pray for me, not on Sunday, not tomorrow, I need someone to pray with me right now!!" At this point Jon Boche came up and rescued me. I felt at a complete loss. I know that St. Marcus folk are pretty experienced in handling these things and referring people and finding help for people. If he had not showed up I would have done at least two things. I was about to get her outside as Jon did, but then all I could think to do is pray for her and with her. As I got into my car I did pray for her. I have prayed for her at least 4-5 times more last night and today. I pray that she can find relief from her troubled life in Jesus' salvation.
Yet the thoughts of the day have been in my mind. I thought about the life those kids lived to have not experienced a simple gift of a cheeseburger and a shake and how those lives will go forward. Then only an hour later to see a woman on the other end of life...who just needed help in probably every physical way...but really her biggest need expressed at that moment by herself was to have someone pray for her. I thought about how this must have been like so many of the people who sought out Jesus in his day to just touch his robe or hear his voice pronounce forgiveness.
Truly it was one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had and I will thank God for putting me in the situation to experience it.