What a beautiful night it was at Redeemer Lutheran Church for the Redeemer Afterschool Program (RAP)! I can’t tell you how encouraging, painful, and refreshing it is to participate in a ministry that actively responds to the needs of community. Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon/evening, children from around the neighborhood stream into the church with backpacks full of homework and bodies full of so much energy!
We eat and study together. We tell stories and listen together. We play and dance and sing together. And throughout the year, we are working with children to write music, record, and perform.
Tonight, we ate taco salad and banana pudding, made by a diverse group of folks: children and young adults from the Harrison Neighborhood, members of partner churches, and young adults involved in service through Lutheran Volunteer Corps. Tonight, Alecia helped prepare and serve dinner for the group, and showed off her writing skills!
The group I’m working with includes 5 boys, all who are 7 and 8 years old. The past two weeks have been about cooperating to come up with themes that we could write songs about. Tonight, my little cohort honed their ideas down to three:
- Dreams, and
- Stopping Violence
I was particularly touched when I asked my guys what their biggest fears were. Among the typical list you’d expect from young boys (monsters, sleeping in the dark, sharks, etc.) were “guns” and “gangbangin'”. The relative systematic privilege I grew up in — privilege I have been confronting since college– hit me like a kick to the gut again. “Do you know what gang banging even is?“, asked one 8-year-old.
The complexity of the question was a follow-up jab. Not only did I find myself in awe of being asked such a question by such a young boy, but I found myself realizing that I couldn’t actually reply, “Yes, my friend, I do”, because my whole concept of gangs is based on little more than straight up fiction.
Tonight, I’m so grateful for these little boys I get to work with this year. I think we have a lot to learn from each other. I think I have a lot to learn from them. I think I have a lot to learn.
And again, I’m also grateful to people like Chimamanda Adichie, who warn us about the danger of a single story of culture(s)…