It can’t be said that my neighborhood is perfect. We have our eyesores and rough spots. Certain neighbors that I don’t know all that well. Some that I keep an eye on. A few that I watch because they make great characters come alive in my head.
My neighborhood is full of stories.
The Wyoming Police are familiar with my street. As are the ambulance drivers. And Fire department.
We’ve got dysfunction. Issues. Situations.
Friday night, I packed my car for an event I had. A few of my neighbors were out. Not too uncommon for a nice evening. But it wasn’t a nice evening for a stroll. It was blazing hot.
But that’s my neighborhood. Beyond explanation.
I waved at my neighbor, Scott.
“Hey, have you been home all day?” he asked.
Weird question. But, then again, that’s my hood.
“Yup,” I answered.
“Have you seen Joseph?” He walked closer to me. “You know, the kid from the foster home. He’s 15 or 16. He has autism.”
“I haven’t seen him,” I said.
It seemed that the temperature outside rose. My stomach clenched.
“Nobody’s seen him since, like, 2 o’clock or something,” Scott said.
It was 5:30.
“His foster dad said he went to play basketball.” Scott pointed down the road toward the park. “I found his basketball. But he wasn’t there.”
“Yeah. They just put out an Amber Alert.” Scott shook his head. “Joseph is pretty high functioning for having autism. But, you know, he can get confused. I’m gonna keep looking. If you see him, tell him to go home. Okay?”
Neighbors rode together in cars, moving around the area together to find Joseph. They walked through the park. Into the hidden areas of trees and creek and tall weeds. They comforted the foster parents.
I feared for the boy. The world is full of people who hurt others. Exploit them. Misuse them. Especially when those others are trusting. Vulnerable. Lonely.
They found Joseph late at night. 6 miles from home. Scared. Shaken up. Exhausted.
He’d been trying to make it to a huge car show. He went the wrong way. Got lost and couldn’t figure out how to get home.
My next door neighbor sent me a text message to let me know that he was okay.
The Amber Alert was canceled.
My neighborhood went back to being…well…my neighborhood.
Or did it?
Maybe my neighborhood changed a little on Friday. Not that we all didn’t care before. Not that we wouldn’t help out. No. That’s not how we changed.
We changed, though. And I think we changed because we witnessed each other in a different way. We watched each other caring. We saw each other desiring to help out.
Good stories aren’t about the functional neighborhood coming together to help. No. That’s predictable.
Why do you think Jesus made sure to have the priest and the Levite pass by the beaten man?
Because that wouldn’t make for good story.
I’ll tell you, though, a good story uses the unlikely characters to do something beautifully outside themselves.
Like a Samaritan putting a beat up Jew on his donkey and leading him to get help.
Or a neighborhood full of dysfunction that shows how loving their hearts truly are.
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