“Dad, some kids need help with their bike! Can you help them?”
“No”, I thought. “They will need to come back another time.” I had just settled into my couch ready for a nice, free hour of ‘me’ time after putting my other daughter down for a nap. However, the excitement in 4-year-old Maya’s voice was something I knew I could not turn down, so I slowly got up from the couch, helplessly watching my plans for ‘me’ time quickly evaporate.
When my wife and I moved into our community 8 years ago, we hoped it could be a place where we would connect with our neighbors and ultimately help contend for their flourishing. I had grand visions of connecting with the teen boys in the neighborhood; plans that for various reasons had never really materialized. We live in a very diverse neighborhood in Seattle, and have many immigrants and refugees as neighbors.
As I stepped out of our garage, I was greeted by four East African kids with their bikes. Hassan, a 10 year old boy wearing a t-shirt and shorts, the same shorts he wears every day of the year, was sitting on a bike with two completely flat tires. Another boy’s bike had half of a training wheel that was half attached to the bike. Still reeling from my precious ‘me’ time being interrupted, I went to grab a wrench so that I could take what was left of the training wheel off. When I brought the wrench out, the kids were captivated and asked “What is that?”. It was at that moment that the scales over my eyes came off and I no longer cared about ‘me’ time. I suddenly could see clearly that this was a moment I had been dreaming of since I moved into this neighborhood…a chance to connect with kids. I quickly showed them how a wrench works. Then I got my bike pump and showed them how to pump up a tire. Tina, the lone girl in the group, wearing her hijab and a long colorful skirt, was so excited as she pumped up the tire to the bike.
It didn’t end up taking all that long to fix their bike issues that day, and I ended up getting some of my ‘me’ time after all. When I went back in the house after saying goodbye, I sat back down on my couch and reflected on what had just happened. Here was this moment that I had been dreaming of for years, and when my dream came and literally knocked on my door, I almost didn’t see it.
At the Global Immersion Project, we talk a lot about the See, Immerse, Contend, Restore process of everyday peacemaking. What I have been learning over these past few months is how much work I have to do in the first step of this process: seeing. It’s so easy to get into my routine and tune out everything else out that doesn’t fit into that routine. Part of that is a survival technique in order to not become too overwhelmed by everything, but if I’m not careful, I will miss important opportunities. If I want to be able to contend for the flourishing of my community, I need to be able to see it.
Since that day, some of the same kids and their friends have been by the house several times. I’ve showed them how to patch a bike tire, how to change one, and we’ve really started to connect. If it wasn’t for the excitement in Maya’s voice that day, I might have gotten my ‘me’ time, but my eyes would have remained closed, and I’d still be waiting for that opportunity to connect with the kids in my community.
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