In Subrubia, the good summer camps and VBSs fill up around Spring Break.
This past April our summer calendar was still wide open, and I still hadn’t gotten around to signing the kids up for some activities.
Just when it was time to panic, my friend Barb, the director of our old church, called. She invited our kids to two weeks of summer camp at her school, which is closer to downtown Houston.
“Yes!” we said. “YESyesyesyes.” Actually the kids only found out about the camp on the first morning we went. I was the one looking forward to the camp. I was the one saying, “Yesyesyesyesyes. So much yes.”
Camp in Houston’s Memorial area was good news for three reasons: 1. All four kids would be learning about Jesus in a sweet environment. 2. For FIVE HOURS every day. Five hours of uninterrupted writing time. 3. Also errand-running time. Our old church is smack dab in the mecca of good shopping. For every errand on my long list, there was a boutique, store, or service center to help me out.
So, for the past nine days, the kids and I have trekked over to the urban Memorial area. While the kids learned new Jesus songs and made questionable art from paper plates and glitter, I hit up every Starbucks, Williams Sonoma, and IKEA in the area. (Just wanted to clarify, there is only one IKEA in the area. Because, multiple IKEAs? How would they even FIT that awesomeness in one city?)
After I picked the kids up from camp, we went on adventures. The above picture is us listening to a jazz band at an outdoor shopping center. On this particular day, the Astroturf was hotter than the surface of the sun.
All day, every day, we galavanted through our nation’s fourth largest city. Actually, galavanted is probably too festive of a word considering all the traffic we sat in this week. Which, by the way, what are all the other drivers DOING ON THEIR PHONES? Driving 70 mph down the interstate, and every driver around me on their phones is playing Candy Crush or checking Facebook. What is this? It’s like the faster the driver is going, the more crap he’s doing on his phone.
Or smoking. I didn’t realize people even smoked anymore. Until I drove down I-10 for a couple weeks straight. Turns out, every single driver stuck next to us in traffic, is chain-smoking. And, of course, the kids are all like, “What is THAT?! Could I do that?!”
So, in between visiting cute bookstores and touring the American Girl store (I told you, we were in the shopping mecca), we sat in a lot of traffic.
While sitting in traffic, watching the other drivers play Temple Run and smoke, we also came eye-to-eye with Houston’s homeless population.
While we waited at stoplights, toothless, skinny, dirty men and women held out their hands for money.
Oh, wow. I had forgotten about this. I had forgotten about the dozens and dozens of men and women, who are hungry, who hold up signs that say, “God Bless You. Please Help.”
Until that first day, when we pulled up to the stoplight outside one of Houston’s ritziest neighborhoods, I had forgotten the guilt that sours my stomach when I look into the eyes of a person who has nothing to drink on the hottest day of the year, in one of the hottest places on the Earth.
Understandably, the kids FREAKED OUT. “Help them! Give them all our money!” some of them yelled. “Drive away!” the others cried. “He is a STRANGER! Don’t talk to him!”
Like most Americans, we were caught someplace between inviting each and every one of these poor souls to pile into the minivan so we could take them home with us…and driving away and acting like we didn’t see them.
Both choices seemed pretty irresponsible. Both options seemed especially impossible since my four kids were watching me for clues about how to treat a stranger, who really does need help.
So, we talked about it. We talked and talked and talked about what we could do for all these homeless people we saw begging at every stoplight.
Catie remembered what our beloved Aunt Katie had taught us to do years before. Pray for each and every one of these men and women. And give them a bag filled with non-perishable food and drink, and the Gospel of John.
Today marks the end of our two weeks of urban adventures. I had planned to recount our adventures of shopping and navigating traffic. I had planned to report that Nate handled his first real camp like a champ (I mean, a champ who cried almost every day, but a champ nonetheless).
But God had bigger lessons for us this week. Instead of only learning how to make a penguin from a popsicle stick or how to count change at the American Girl store, our kids learned a little tiny bit about compassion.
And about how ministry doesn’t always happen in a church.