to the girl across the street,

I miss you.

I saw you on the internet the other day, but I barely recognized you. Do you remember me?

My mother introduced us to each other when I was just a small boy. She hoped I would know you all my life, to grow up with you, that we’d even dance together one day.

Back then, I noticed something about you that was so darling.  You listened so attentively to others and their stories. You had all the time in the world for people that nobody had time for. People like Ms. Shumacher.

I still can see her with her long, dark hair and giant bifocals that made her eyes look bugged out and massive to me.  She would stand and clap and raise her hands every week in one of only a few dresses she owned and wore on repeat. But you listened so attentively to her on Wednesdays when she would testify. It didn’t matter how long it took her to share, you listened. Though it was some time ago, I can still remember my boyish impatience, but I watched your eyes, and you weren’t in any hurry. You listened like her story was sacred and precious. Like all time was sacred and precious.

You would set the pace without insisting.

And so I learned to see beauty in Ms. Schumacher instead of buggy eyes. I learned to hug her, even if her dress smelled a little dirty, because it’s what I saw you do.

I miss you.

You would listen to my dad sing and play guitar. He loved the Spirit of Jesus He met out in the desert one night, and trusted He could find Him again wherever you were. And you enjoyed him. I mean, I had grown up to the sound of him strumming away in the other room, singing his melancholy tune, but I didn’t know you would love it too.  He wasn’t the world’s best singer or guitar player, but he meant every word he sang. He felt every strum in his chest. And you listened.

I miss you.

Your house was right across the street from mine, and I could come over anytime of the week. And when I did, I always found you up to something kind for a neighbor; something generous; something for somebody somewhere. You were different than the noisy harshness of my schoolroom setting, or some places in my neighborhood, where I was scared to go down the streets on my bike.

But you would go down those streets and your courage taught me not to fear. Some people would have difficult stories to hear, and I didn’t understand them all, but you stood on their porch and just listened. You prayed and listened.

I miss you.

Not because I don’t come over to your house anymore –  I still do.

Not because you’re not home when I come – you still are.

But because you’re different than I remember you.

You’re… cool now.

Too cool for Ms. Schumacher.

Ms. Schumacher can’t get what she has to say down to your thirty-second video. And I guess she’s older now too, so maybe she doesn’t represent your “target audience”? Whatever that means.

You’re busy. You’ve got producing to do.

You hire professional musicians to play at your parties now, and my dad …I get it: he’s great to me!  But I’m still that little boy with a heart full of wonder about his melancholy melody. And you? Well, you have auditions to hold.

You’re louder than I remember, too.  You’ve really only got time for what you want to say now, the positions you stand for, vote on and protest.

Meanwhile, the streets behind my house have gotten scarier it seems, and maybe you don’t want to bother people on their porches anymore. Maybe you sense they don’t like it. But maybe they don’t like it, because they don’t really get to talk?

I know you’ve got a website, and they can find you and come out at their own convenience. You made it easier for them to hear what you had to say this week… heck, they can even download it and share it with their friends. That was kind of you.

You quit smiling at our quirkiness, and letting people be a little weird.  It doesn’t fit your image. You used to hang pictures of real family members on your walls. You traded them for stock photos, actors in staged Bible studies. You didn’t used to count everything so much.  You didn’t use to design logos and bumper sticker slogans so much.  You didn’t own the newest TV’s to display your vision, you simply embodied it.  It’s crazy how all the lights and cameras are on, but I can’t see you as well as I used to for some reason.

When you’re finished being cool; when you’re finished convincing people your positions are right; when you’re finished producing motion graphics, professional rock bands and social media campaigns, will us uncool misfits, melancholy dreamers and scary backstreet neighbors still belong?

She can clap on beat, but will Ms. Shumacher’s glasses and worn out dresses fit the look you’re going for in your new music video? It’s one of the loveliest sounds I can remember, but will my dad’s folky guitar fit your genre..? My neighbors are wonderful people but they don’t even have internet to watch your latest “outreach” video…

Are you caught up in your wedding plans? Too busy getting the perfect building, the perfect colors, the perfect music …did you forget why your groom calls you lovely? Have you forgotten how He flirts with you through the most unlikely of messengers? How he leaves you wild flowers that spring up in a day, and gone the next? How He only writes His best poems for you in the mud on rainy days?

Are you listening?

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