Three of my babies stopped by to visit last night. I suppose I can’t really call them that anymore. Two of the young men who stopped by are 19/20 years old, the third is a junior in high school this year. They stopped by church to visit the high school youth ministry, and popped in to say hello when they saw me through the window in the winter emergency shelter we host at church. They’re all living lives their way — basically, lots of weed and a little bit of work. My favorite part of them coming to visit — they knew I’d be excited to see them.
No matter how old the kids get, when I see them, I always see their 12 year old selves. Behind the sunken eyes and smell of weed is the new kid who tried to get me to take the whole van of boys to Hooters. Under the tie-dye t-shirt and glazed eyes of another is the kid showed up at my house and asked me to take pictures of the sharpie tattoos covering his arms and legs so he could show all his buddies.
I ran across this article over the weekend about Akiel Denkins, the young man in Raleigh who was recently killed by a police officer. It resonated deeply. Regardless of the choices Akiel made, the folks in his neighborhood knew him. They didn’t excuse his choices, and always called him to higher standards, but they focused on knowing him and his potential more than his choices.
Regardless of the choices the kids make, I’m always happy to see them. It is a joy that they choose to come back around, that they know they will always find love and a warm embrace, that they know they have a church home when it’s time to pop in.