I’m truly blessed to have different organizations partner with New City – Barrio Nuevo to do community work. I know that most that help out have seldom been in a setting where they cross over racial boundaries. I know that it isn’t easy to visit the proverbial other side of the tracks. It is too easy at times to allow the perception of others about under resourced neighborhoods stop you from driving to a different section of town. I will be the first to share that life is similar regardless of which side of the tracks you happen to call home.
This last week I did a presentation at a private high school that will do an urban mission week with us in the near future. The perception of most looking at this school is that it is primarily a group of affluent Anglo’s that has little interest in being exposed to life on the other side of the tracks. I give presentations often and I know that it isn’t always easy to draw an audience into a discussion about racial inequality or generational poverty. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised when doing my presentation that many in the group actually shared their stories and helped to start a dialogue about real life questions.
As I wrapped up the discussion and gave out gifts for those who participated I had a young gal come and ask me a question. She was very slow to interrupt, great manners, my group would have bounced up to the front and just asked, ‘Hey Dave can I ask a question?’ This teen was very polite and asked, ‘Do you really think it is possible in a period of 5 days to really connect with someone who is of a totally different racial and socio-economic background?’ She continued and said, ‘I don’t want to try knowing that this is doomed to failure.’ I applauded her for the boldness and courage it took to come up to me after class by herself. I said I would love to give her an opportunity to connect with one of my teens and show in a simple way that it is very possible to make friends easily and put a damper on any sense that race and where you live totally determine who can be your friend.
I told the teen to get permission from her parents and then text me and I would text her and one of my gals. This happened as soon as school was finished that day. I actually saw the teen that I knew would easily connect with this gal. So I asked my teen for permission to do this and within a few minutes they were texting buddies. It wasn’t too long before I realized that they were communicating everyday and excited to meet in a week.
One of the goals of New City – Barrio Nuevo is to give opportunities for young, old, rich, poor, stable and not so stable types of people to make new friends and learn more about life through someone else’s eyes. I’m so excited for this connection that I pray will bring many others to step up and live outside the box. I will be the first to admit that everyone usually feels more comfortable with people that look like them, have similar backgrounds and speak the same language. Yet, the beauty in God’s Kingdom is that his love and actions transcend race, economics and locals.
Isn’t it time that you do something different purposely? I always suggest that it is awesome to try some new restaurant that gives you a step into another culture that can open your eyes to how big our world happens to be instead of letting the Internet give the impression that everything is always ready figured out! Be bold and adventurous like these young teens who defy their own cultural backgrounds!