November 26, 2007

He Came From Harlem

He was fatherless boy from Harlem, New York. A high school student 17 years of age. I was a woman in my mid forties, living on a tree farm with my family in Oregon. He knew everything about surviving in the big city. I knew everything about canning green beans and butchering meat.

He was used to constant city noise, electronic games, phone calls. I liked quiet. He is black, I am white. He was social, everybody's friend. I was cautious with everyone I met.

He was used to a tug-of-war of arguing and negotiating and protesting to make things happen. I believed that as a parent I should quietly listen and consider the facts, then carefully make my decision and stick to it!

We weren't 100 percent opposed in every way. We knew how to respect each other. He understood that I was committed to him, to some degree. He was grateful to have the opportunity to stay in our home, so he attempted to work with us.

It was definitely CULTURE SHOCK when he came with his mother and sister to meet us for the first time. After a long flight into Portland with their church group, traveling another 2 hours on a bus, entering our church-school with scores of grinning strangers, and then being paired up with us, you can imagine what this New York lady thought of our long, winding country road into the hills!

She didn't use the word "lynch", but she was seriously uncomfortable. She kept looking out the windows of my van into the darkness. I didn't know she wasn't used to not seeing the lights of the city... I wonder how determined she was to see this through at that point. I believed her prayer had been to get Darnell out of the city for a time, to keep him from getting into trouble on the streets. Our desire was to share the strengths of our faith and our family with them while he attended our Christian School for a year.

Darnell's dream was to make it to the NBA, and working on his skills with lots of playing time/preparation with our small, private school basketball team.

How did we come to regard him as a son? It had been my hope that God could give me the wisdom and the strength to make a stranger into a friend. I had wanted to demonstrate this value to my children as well. I was committed to loving him as my own sons - and he became one of us.

My best memories, believe it or not, are of the hardest events during that year.

I wanted to know this kid. I wanted to understand how he thought. I wanted him to understand how I came to make the life-choices that I had made. Often he and I would sit up late at the kitchen table comparing our viewpoints on different things. We reasoned together. We challenged each other. I gladly gave up my sleep for these times, and I grew to love him. I miss those days...

Then when he got so much attention from lonely girls that it was bordering on becoming unhealthy - "I" had to be the Mom that stepped in. That was one of the hardest encounters of my life! I had remained prayerfully silent till that point, then I had to act! Thankfully, within a few weeks I learned that a heart had been changed - wow! THAT was an answer to my prayer!

The hardest time (by far!) was when the scandal of scandals was hitting our group of friends, and our response was to pull together as a family and get on our faces on the floor to pray. This wasn't customary for us; it was necessary for that time!

At one point while one of us was praying I reached my hand toward town (still on my face) and felt what I thought was somebody's fuzzy sock. When I opened my eyes to see what it was - it was Darnell's head!

How can things look so bad, and yet, I can be so proud that this is how my family responds?

Well, I'm full of words, I know. I'll get to the point of telling you all of this: I called Darnell's mother last night - after being out of touch for many years! She had abandoned her phone number earlier this year, and had just gained it back! If I had tried to reach her previously - it couldn't have happened!

It's been seven years since we have seen him. We may have spoken with him once or twice since, but then we went our separate ways.

She got Darnell on the line and we chatted till we ran out of energy to proceed. It was just awesome to reconnect! We agreed that we would stay in touch...


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