I have grown to love the morning, the earlier the better. Today I was able to be in my office well before 7:00 AM, so I have watched the world come alive around me. My office is on the second floor of the educational wing in the church where I am appointed as pastor. One of the things I love about my office location is that my window looks out over one of the busier streets in this area, so I see many different people doing many different things throughout the day.
Take this morning, for example. Walking through the deserted parking lot as the morning darkness transmuted into whisps of light, I slipped my key into the front lock and entered a darkened office hallway. Sitting at my much-cluttered desk I immediately dove into the stacks of paper I have to work through, hearing little from my opened window. In the refreshing newness of the day I could feel the gentle, cool autumnal breezes filtering through to where I was sitting.
Within the hour the traffic, both pedestrian and automobile, increases. I see joggers, walkers with their dogs in hand. And then, one of my favorite occurrences: two of the kids who live a block away, who regularly attend our church, and whom Claudia and I have "adopted" (along with their younger sister and mother). Every morning I am in the office they wave, raising their voices: "Hey, Pastor Bart!" I always return the wave and smile at them. It seems like a nice way for them and for me to start our mornings.
I busy myself with the relentless onslaught of email, telephone calls, preparation and papers representing work to be acted upon or delegated. And then I hear it.
A word wafting through my open window in this heretofore glorious morning that I am not expecting. The word that propriety prohibits me from typing here, but which begins with an "F" and rhymes with the animal that quacks and swims in the water. I am no prude. The wod surfeits regularly in our home, much to our chagrin, and after all this time is still not one that I appreciate much.
But to hear it piercing the beauty of the morning disconcerts me.
In the synaptic intensity of the moment, jarred as I was from the soothing start my morning had earlier promised, I drew a mental picture of the vulgarity's source. The church is located in a diverse neighborhood filled with all kinds of very interesting people, and so I imagined a small group of teenagers strutting their bravado and supposed maturity. Not seeing such a group, I thought perhaps a young adult who had experienced a challenging life or morning.
But it was neither.
It was a young man, someone I have seen walk by the church before, but not a person I have yet had the opportunity to meet. Twentyish, scraggly-bearded and evidencing the signs of a challenging life, he was holding the hand of a preschool child. No older than four years of age, she appeared to be his daughter. “Surely not,” I thought. “That guy can’t be talking to a small child that way, can he?”
In those quick moments of mental processing I quickly convinced myself that I must have misunderstood or misheard what I thought I had heard. Sadly, he confirmed my initial shock as I heard, “Hurry up! You don’t have to be so f---ing slow.”
By this time they were nearly past the church facilities and crossing the sidewalk, so I didn’t feel my presence would be welcome or helpful. Even had they been within clearer sight or closer to my office, I’m not sure if I would have bounded down the stairs and out the doors to confront the inappropriate behavior. The time may come when I have the chance to develop some kind of relationship with him, but the time was not today.
And so, sitting here, watching from my window, I am reminded that as challenging as my children are, they do not have to be subjected to the kind of emotional abuse that may very well lead them into repeating a generational cycle of despair and hopelessness. While we exchange heated and terse words now that most of kids are in the teenage years, none of our children at those young ages had to endure the inappropriate wrath of their parents because they were dawdlers.
Watching from my window reminds me that our world is filled with shadow and light, hope and despair, promise and destitution. And I am glad that I have the opportunity, one child at a time, to do my best to prevent the scene I observed this morning beneath the steps of my church office window.