Dear Brittany and Brad;
Since you moved in and in catching up with you while you walked Winston, I have enjoyed getting to know you. I have enjoyed petting Winston and just lingering in conversation unhurriedly. Pulling weeds and talking to neighbors ranks highly for me. I remember my first conversation with Brittany when you guys were just moving in. I was grateful to have some neighbors who were followers of Christ also and who had a crew of kids –that my kiddos might have some friends.
I was hopeful when my girl Robin made Tilly’s acquaintaince and hung out with her and felt a little slice of hope that maybe they would kindle a friendship or camaraderie. I didn’t want to think it was true when she said Tilly couldn’t come over to our house because she wasn’t allowed. I didn’t want to think the worst, but I was a little disappointed.
But when Robin told me one afternoon about a conversation with your older son about our little pride flags, and she used the word homophobic, my heart sunk a little as well as my gut.
The flags were placed with intention. My older daughter tends to be the kind of kid who feels most comfortable when she is supporting those around her. She has struggled because she has seen first hand how the church excludes groups. She doesn’t know how to square this with the conversations we have about the teachings of Christ and the example he has set in his relationships and ministry. It has been an opportunity for me to walk with her closely and also trust and pray. Ultimately I know her faith is between herself and Christ alone. It is not something I can orchestrate or control or do alot about, although I never really seem to give up trying.
So, I put a few small pride flags in our flowers this year. It was not against my ecumenical leanings in terms of faith, but it was intentional. It may have been a nod toward the radical love of Christ. A love that will not be hemmed in by what is popular in prevailing culture. I wanted to create a different narrative of how as followers of Christ we show love.
So it was sadness that my 11-year old reported that some neighbor kids told her that they couldn’t play with her because they believed that the flags represented ideas that were against the bible. Sadness for her because she was paying a price in friendships that she wanted at the cost of reasons of faith interpreted differently. It spurred a discussion. A discussion about the example of Christ, and how sometimes as parents we seek to shield our children from influences that we believe could lead them astray. And how people follow Christ differently, and that was why she wasn’t able to play with kids a couple houses down from her.
This all grieved my heart for my youngest who has sought friends in this neighborhood but without much luck. Sometimes owing to her own learning curve on how to be a good friend I am sure, sometimes personality differences, going to a school across town and sometimes because of age differences. Despite this, as a mom I never stop trying to help her understand how people are different and to hold appropriate boundaries as well as to be generous with her care and concern for other kids. After all, they are just kids and are figuring it out themselves as well.
Still, day in and day out she goes outside to play–usually alone.
My purpose in writing this letter is to examine a little this situation with a lens of love and empathy.
We are really at a particular time. If it weren’t obvious because of the mask wearing or the social distancing, it has been obvious in the fact that I had long conversations with 2 of my neighbors. Just randomly.
Since moving in, I have tried to be a little intentional about getting to know these folks living close to me.
I value community, which starts with neighbors. We have in the past had some really great neighbors. There were the neighbors who shared their beach house, the old people that had tea parties with my kids and the welder guy who never failed to make comments that indicated to me that he didn’t estimate my intelligence to be significant. At the end of the day, they were all just funny stories, even if there was some irritation in the moment.
We moved to where we live now instead of onto a small acreage because I really did not want to drive the kids all over the place. So we ended up in a neighborhood with one of those names at the entry point. We also couldn’t afford to fix up the dumpy houses on the lots we could afford, and we were stretched pretty thin in our lives in the moment financially and also in that we were both coping with a good number of really crummy cards life had dealt. So we ended up in the the neighborhood with the name at the entry point because it had 4 bedrooms and a big back yard. Plus, one couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a kid the age of our kids.
So this is perhaps some context for a sense of grief that our new neighbors have made an assessment of my own children that has resulted in exclusion. My inability to make sense of how parents translate the teachings of Christ into how they raise their children and select the friends their kids will have… is maybe a little deeper than you are interested in going.
Thank you for the opportunity for growth on my part because truly your choices and exclusions of my children are beyond my scope of charity or comprehension.