Christmas 2020

I went to see Omar this week.  I hadn’t seen him in a few weeks. He and the other boys call often and ask, “Chris, when are you gonna come get us?”, and I can only reply, “Not for awhile, I’m not trying to have y’all catch the coronavirus.” I try to get around to see all of our core kids every couple of weeks but I’m not always able to get to all of them. A visit these days consist of a fifteen to twenty minute drop by… If weather permits we can go to the park or do something outside for longer. We’ll shoot baskets, toss the football, or just lean against the car and talk. We wear masks and stay six feet apart. We get a lot of visiting done though, and I feel like I’m able to let them know somebody cares about what they are going through, that God cares… Immanuel.

A lot had happened in Omar’s life since the last time I’d seen him.  His family had moved.  They had been living with relatives for a long time but his mom had gotten them an apartment in a different neighborhood.  Not that different though, he still hears gunshots every night. Another boy I know lived nearby and he came over when he heard I was there.  I had brought some McDonald’s for them and they ate on a bench in the courtyard. I also brought some treats for Omar to share with his younger brothers and sisters.

Omar was doing terrible with online school.  He had just started the ninth grade and completed his first quarter.  I was alarmed to discover he had no credits because all of his classes were incompletes. “Don’t you do your work?” I asked him.  He said yes, when he was online but not the out of class assignments.  I said, “You mean your homework? You gotta do your homework man!” He shrugged… “Once school is offline I just play video games.”  “Dude, you’re going to get way behind!” Again the shrug, like he didn’t care, there’s just no motivation.  Single parent mom is at work all day, struggling to make ends meet and provide basic needs for food and shelter… with no energy or time to provide the parental oversight online schooling requires for students like Omar. This pandemic is taking a serious toll on our families, apart from the obvious health risks. They are being pushed deeper and deeper into an already depressed condition both socially and economically…Immanuel.

Most or our kids and families are experiencing the same thing, drifting along, just trying to keep their heads above water. The one good thing happening now is that our kids are staying inside for the most part. I spoke with another boy a couple days later… I asked him if he’s staying out of trouble… “Oh yeah, I stay in the house.  Last week there was a shooting on that block, a couple weeks ago a boy got shot over there, then last night someone got shot in my alley.  I don’t dare leave the house”… Immanuel.

It’s hard not to get overwhelmed and discouraged for our kids. But they seem really encouraged when they see me or Lisa or when we bring food boxes. Our families are really gonna miss our annual Christmas party this year.  We are too! Lisa has thought of a way to bring the Christmas party to people’s houses. We will make holiday baskets to distribute, or people can pick them up, which include special treats and gifts reminiscent of our Christmas gathering.  We’ll bring some Christmas.

We try to bring Christmas when trouble arrives and people call on us for whatever they need.  We try to bring Christmas in our phone calls, texts and social media posts and messages.  We try to bring Christmas in backdoor visits at our house, meeting on the street corner or on their front steps.  We’ll celebrate Christmas with them, and they’ll know Jesus has come…Immanuel, God with us.

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