89 Days of Greatness: Day #22

June 14, 2014

Day #22 of 89 Days of Greatness.  What was today’s greatness?  Was it the mother-son date Brent and I had this afternoon to play miniature golf?  It’s a rare thing – not lightning-strike rare, but grand-slam rare – for me to get one-on-one time with each of the littles.

Last Saturday on my birthday, Mariana and I went and got our nails done for a Mama-daughter outing.  She convinced me to put a smoky blue-grey polish on my toes; it’s still there, looking pretty smashing.  I think it’s growing on me.  (Now that it is, it will immediately start wearing off.  Kind of like in junior high when that guy liked you and you knew it but you were pretty sure you just liked him as a friend; and then he said and did some amazingly endearing things several days in a row – which is close to an official historical epoch in junior high – that made you see him in a new light, and you decided that maybe, just maybe, you did like him for more than a friend after all; and you found a subtle way to let him know that right about the time he decided he’d move on to the new girl who just moved in town or his dad got transferred to the New Brunswick office.)

Mariana and I had a sweet afternoon together last Saturday.  Today was Brent’s turn.

So Brent and I went and played 18 holes of miniature golf.  We talked and laughed and loved being together.  When we told the family about it later, Blake decided that’s what he wanted for our mother-son date next weekend.  I guess that means we did an okay P.R. job about our date, which included my taking Brent to get a Slurpee.  As he settled on which flavors he wanted, my pancreas revolted in a show of solidarity with his, but he somehow managed to drink all ten ounces of chemical sludge without suffering a shut-down.

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Before 7-11, though, we had 18 holes to play, and boy did we live it up.  At one point when we were waiting our turn for the next hole, we found a monarch butterfly on some lantana.  What is it about butterflies that makes children go put out their fingers and invite every butterfly they ever see to land on their fingers?  It’s a beautiful, pure proof of childhood.

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That was all greatness, but not the official day of greatness activity.  So what was?

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Was it Babb Brothers BBQ for lunch?  There’s an area in Dallas called Trinity Groves that is just starting to take off in the last couple of years since our (regionally) famous Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge was erected that artfully takes patrons right to the new casual specialty restaurants, a brewery, and other enticing attractions that Trinity Groves has to offer.  As a result, that area, which has historically been so impoverished and commercially neglected that virtually no non-residents spent time there, has become a hotspot for folks from all walks of life, all socio-economic backgrounds.

Right there in the midst of it all, Babb Brothers BBQ stands proud, as well it should considering the sheer delectability of its food.  I’m partial (and exceedingly loyal) to their chopped beef sandwich topped with cole slaw and delicious barbeque sauce.  They also have these things called ‘tobacco straws ‘ – no idea why they’re called that because there is absolutely no tobacco in them, and they’re not straws; they’re shoestring onions dipped in a light batter that are so good that they should be illegal – that make the ideal topping for any sandwich.

It’s a fun place, too, with beer hall-style seating and an enclosed patio and covered porch outside.  Greatness?  Yes.  Day of Greatness-type greatness?  No.

Today’s Day of Greatness-type greatness came this morning at a little school in West Dallas – an impoverished section of town where great things are happening in terms of growth and change and racial reconciliation but where many more things need to happen if we are ever to see God’s best for our city.

The school is called the Amelia Earhart Learning Center.  The student body is primarily Hispanic with English being the second language for a large percentage of those kids.  The neighborhood it serves is quite poor, one where houses with boarded windows are the norm, one where you see homeowners sitting – just sitting – outside in the heat in old beat-up folding chairs doing nothing for hours on end.  You can almost feel the sense of despair, the sense of ‘why change anything I do? ain’t nuthin’ ‘roun’ here eveh gonna change no matter how I spend my days.’

But God has forgotten neither this neighborhood nor this neighborhood school called the Amelia Earhart Learning Center.  In recent years, our church has partnered with AELC to provide volunteers to tutor, to read to the students, to host an end-of-year graduation party for those AELC students who are promoted to middle school, to do whatever was necessary to help the floundering school.

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The messages there are positive and encouraging.  The hard data?  Not so much.

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This morning at 9A.M., volunteers from our church gathered at AELC to help get that little school in tip-top shape come fall. Families gathered along with individual volunteers – young and old – for a total of almost 100 volunteer-workers. The kids and many of the mamas made encouraging and welcoming signs to put in the hallways for the kids and the teachers to see once August rolls around.  (I’d have photographed more of them if I hadn’t been writing, drawing, and painting!  And Brent did his awesome sign really well – in about the length of time it probably took Da Vinci to paint The Last Supper, but I have no picture of his work because as soon as he was done, he ran off to meet Brian and Blake outside for jobs to do out there.

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We also landscaped where there previously was no landscaping of which to speak …

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… and painted walls and stained fences and hung up artwork done by a well-known local artist who happens to attend our church and who still paints even though he’s approaching ninety years old and has battled some pretty serious health complications.

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We prayed, we worked, we sweated, and we worked some more for three hours.  Brian was a workhorse in the painting and staining departments, but I was, uh, ‘glistening’ so thoroughly from the heat and the work by the time I had joined back up with him that I dared not touch my camera for fear of my, uh, ‘glistening’ sticking to the camera and damaging it.

After washing up a bit, I did manage to get a picture of Mariana with her sweet friend, Mia. They tend to smile 100% of the time when they are together, even during hot and ‘glistening’ volunteer work.

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This morning’s greatness was not just that we did a service project as a family; it was that we had the profound and beautiful reminder that sometimes the best way to get your heart and soul clean is to get your hands dirty doing something good for someone else.

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Greatness, indeed.

Godspeed.

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