I once knew a boy named Cody, who went to a camp I helped direct through UrbanPromise Wilmington. He had gotten in a fight, and I learned it was because someone had insulted his dad, who he had recently lost. I, too, lost my dad, Art, at a young age, and that connection turned into a relationship that lasted years. We would hang out regularly, play games, make things, and just enjoy the time together. Then I moved. I wasn’t diligent in calling. Years passed. I always intended to call, but never did.
One day his mom called, and I was thankful for the opportunity to reconnect. Three words changed that: “Cody passed away.” Much went through my mind in the time that followed, but above all was this: I had a desire to communicate to others the importance of persevering in our relationships.
My relationship with Cody formed from a commonality, namely that we had both lost our fathers, and grew into a great mentoring relationship. Then, I let “life” distract me. I often, in fact very often, thought about him, but it was always “never a good time to call.” I sincerely wish I could go back to just one of those times, slap myself upside the head, and put the phone to my ear.
This June I began working at Church Hill Activities and Tutoring, or CHAT (www.CHATRichmond.org.) I’m functioning within three roles: Director of Interns, Director of Service Groups, and Videographer. With the latter role, I hope to post videos regularly sharing the stories coming out of Church Hill; you can watch several now at http://www.youtube.com/GodinChurchHill. With the former role, I will be walking alongside a few dozen interns each year as they discover what it means to serve God within the urban context, and, more importantly, what it means to be in genuine community.
A number of this summer’s 26 interns have already shared about youth that they are mentoring; many of them want to cultivate deeper, more meaningful relationships. My hope is to communicate to them, among many other things, the importance of recognizing the responsibility in that. In my relationship with Cody, there was a lot of intentionality in engaging in regular activities; when I moved out of the area, I lost that intentionality. I didn’t care about him less, but I did not recognize the shift in my priorities.
Creating community calls for intentionality and clear priorities. It calls for sacrifices. And the fruits of these far outweigh the costs. If I could do it again, I would forego whatever I may have been doing to call Cody, to talk about Dragonball Z (of which I knew nothing) and what belt in martial arts he was working towards. And this would have meant that in 2011 I would have learned about his brain tumor, and have had to mourn with him and his mom for several months. It would have meant several long trips to see him. It would have meant a very, very difficult funeral.
Despite the pain that path would have meant, I would’ve gladly taken it so that I could nurture that relationship.
That said, God is not calling me to bitterness or sadness, but to explore how I can allow that experience to grow and mold me. I currently mentor an amazing teen, Charles, who quite honestly teaches me more than I teach him. While I recognize that’s a line people use all the time when talking about mentorship, I can’t help but use it when talking about this spiritually mature, clear-headed, compassionate young man. When I think of spending time with Charles, I often think about Cody, and it encourages me to make the most of those interactions.
I’m so thankful I met Cody 8 years ago, and so thankful that God so craftily brought us into a mentoring relationship (a story for another time.) I am thankful for the powerful lesson on community that He revealed in that situation. I still occasionally connect with his mom; please pray for God’s peace and comfort for her when you think of it.
Read more at www.wheredidyouseeGod.com/writings