Friday, May 20, 2005


Pieces of a talk that are floating around in my head... Based on a true story...

I help out around here, I'm not sure if you could call it a job. It isn't really. But it is fun, I think out of all the people that do help here, and there are a lot, I think I've got the best gig.

One of the things I did recently as part of what I do around here is take a group of kids to NYC. The overall goal was to expose them to the city. But not only expose them - but expose them to make them change. My personal goal is to make kids change the way they think about the world. To force you to change what you think about the things that you care about and how it relates to the world around you.

We were travelling in a subway tunnel, about 19 of us. We got to one of the parts in the tunnel where it just smelled bad. It's thick, it makes you squint and sometimes makes your eyes tear up a bit. It's that really really thick smell of urine. Subways, buses stations, empty buildings, parking garages. It's the city.

As we were moving through the tunnel, some of the kids who had never been to the city before started talking about how gross it was. And make no mistake, it is gross.

I decided to stop the group right then and there, right in the smell. Right in the thick of it. What fun - lets stop so we can fully take in the smell. No not really.

What I wanted them to see, no even more than see, but to feel, I wanted them to feel the sense of living in that condition. Not just walking through the smell, but living that smell day in and day out. No shower, no clean clothes, no purfume.

We stopped and talked for a few minutes. "People live like this everyday." "Homelessness is huge in the city." "This smell is a constant for millions of people around the world."

Those facts, maybe some of them understood, maybe some of them didn't. Facts inform. After we started moving again, and this part kills me, one of the kids actually apologized to me for talking about how bad the smell was. She actually felt bad about thinking and feeling and talking that way. I actually felt bad about her feeling bad.

I venture that the weekend was a significant moment in her life. My hope,and I think it's coming to pass, is that she changed what she believed about this world. She has come to see a world that is hungry for Jesus, that she is part of a movement that is bigger than any church or Bible study. She has come to care about something much different than what the suburbs lull her into, or what the media says she should look like.

What a great job - taking groups of kids and making them stop and smell the way a quality NYC subway smells like.

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