I’ve started taking my lunch in Retama Park on Maple Avenue. It’s a three minute walk from my office…and few people are ever there in the middle of day. This park has become a delightful escape from the technology, air-conditioning, and straight lines of the office.
Today, as in other days, I sit on a bench towards the center of the park, the only bench that’s actually in the shade. A large water-oak spreads it limbs to block the harsh south Texas sun. In the shade, the constant breezes making their way from the Gulf make the spot perfect for reading, thinking…or dozing.
I’m reading a novel—Tony Hillerman (The Walking Wind). Out of the corner of my eye, a person comes into view…a boy…a young boy…a BIG boy…maybe 10-years-old? He has his basketball. He makes his way onto the concrete courts where the netting is half torn away from the baskets. He begins to dribble and shoot—duip, duip, duip, duip….plunk!...duip, duip, duip….
I return to my novel. Shortly, my mind begins to wander…and the sun is slipping through the leaves making the pages bright…hurting my eyes. I lay the book down, lean my elbows on my knees to escape the sun, and rest my chin on my loosely balled fists. About 25 feet away, a Mexican ground squirrel scurries, haltingly, through the scrubby grass.
I hadn’t noticed that the dribbling had stopped. Turning to the voice, the lad stands ten feet away looking at me, ball in hand.
“No, not bored…just sitting here thinking.”
“Well, at least you have a park to play some basketball in. Do you live close by?”
He points across the street to the public housing for the elderly.
“So, you get to come over anytime you want. That’s cool.”
“Yeah…but I’m bored…I’m SO bored. I can’t wait for school to start back.”
“Well, don’t wish away these summers! I remember when I was your age that summers dragged on forever. Now, I don’t get summer breaks…and I miss those days."
“Well, I just know I’m bored."
“What grade are you in?”
“I’m going into sixth grade!”
“Oh…so, is that middle school?”
“I’m not from around here. I’m just visiting my grandma. I live in Elsa” (a small, rural town some 45 minutes from where we are.)
Not really an answer to my question…but, I guess he thought ahead to cut off the next inevitable question.
“Ah…just spending some time with Grandma?”
“Yeah. You wanna play some ball?”
Laughing a bit, “Uh…well, I have to go back to the office here in a minute, and in this heat, I’d be a sweaty mess if I played ball. So, I can’t this time….”
“Oh…yeah, okay. You work at STC?”
“Yes, I work at STC.”
“What do you do?”
“I work in Institutional Effectiveness.”
“Well, I make sure everyone in all the programs and departments stay on track.”
“Oh…sort of like ‘school monitor’?”
“Yeah…kind of like a ‘school monitor’.” I laugh.
My lunch hour really is up, so I stand.
“Well, I need to get back to work. Have a good time shootin’ hoops.”
“Okay…I will. See you later.”
“See you….” And, off I go, back towards the office.
There are good kids in this world. He talked easily with me, an adult. He allowed himself to be curious, to ask questions. He was kind…and didn’t cuss (kind of rare for our neck of the woods.) He had no devices visible of any kind—no phone, no tablet—nothing to distract him from his surroundings…or from our conversation.
Next time, I’m going to shoot some hoops. And, I plan to have a book to give him in his season of boredom. Next time, if God gives me a next time….
Popular posts from this blog
An empty cup sits before me, a gift from friends…given to me when I was in Prague, Czech Republic, in October 2008, a small token of remembrance on my birthday while I was away from home. That cup is now my espresso cup, filled and drained daily…much to my mind’s content. I keep learning that the greatest joy and contentment usually comes from the simple things in life. I think back to the really expensive gifts I’ve received or even the expensive things I’ve bought…and I struggle to bring them to mind; they’re all but forgotten. But those simple things that brought and bring such joy? They are there at the mere thought: My espresso cup. A small fire on a cool, Fall evening. Sitting on a beach, shore or rocky edge overlooking a bay or the sea. The smell of cookies in the oven. Reading through “The Sermon on the Mount”…again. My old copies of Orthodoxy (G.K. Chesterton) and Mere Christianity (C.S.Lewis). My children laughing together as they tell a tale from days past.
No question elicits more anxiety than this one. At times, I even avoid meeting new people just to side-step this question. “Where are you from?”—seems like such an easy question that should have such an easy answer. For me and others like me, not so. I am a part of that societal anomaly called “Third Culture Kids”—those are born in one culture, raised in another, and never completely ‘at home’ anywhere. Allow me to explain… I was born in south Alabama…way down south where the peanut and cotton fields fill the landscape. I came into that world in the mid-60’s…long before cable TV, central a/c, cell phones, and anything akin to ‘urban sprawl.’ My daddy was the Baptist preacher at a small and growin’ church outside of Dothan, Alabama…that’s ‘Dothan’ – “DOOOE-thun.” My momma, a school teacher, and daddy raised my two older brothers and me in a good Southern home. My few memories of this time include hot summer evenings, a kiddie-pool full of frogs my brothers and their friends had caug
I feel it all around me. When I’m at the college, I feel it. When I’m at the grocery store, I feel it. When I’m at church, I feel it. I speak of that underlying sense of urgency that seems to permeate so many parts of our lives, that subsonic, subliminal message of “hurry, hurry; do it now; let’s get it done….” Perhaps I show my West Indian hand here. But, if that is the case, then we here in North America have something to learn from the West Indies…and much of Latin America, Africa and Asia. Okay…we have something to learn from most of the rest of the world! Why the urgency? Perhaps it has something to do with our American perception that we must be “first” in the world. Biggest, best, fastest, strongest…pick the superlative adjective, and we want to apply it to ourselves here in the US. On a local level, apply these same superlatives to individual companies, schools, etc. And, if we’re going to be the best, first, biggest, etc., I imagine that would indicate a certa