During the rebuilding of our church’s building after the fire, we are leasing a store front. Each day there are three boys who play in the parking lot, in the dumpsters, running down the sidewalks, annoying the other offices in our shopping center. They run into our office each time they pass by, “We came for candy and Coke”, they say. Each day that they come by, we give them candy but we don’t drink Coke often so all we have is water which is disappointing to them and they decline.
They generally wreak havoc in the office and then go on to the next office. Today though was different. I was working in what is now the sanctuary. They had found a shopping cart and they were taking turns getting in the cart and running as fast as they could go, before letting the cart go as it ran into cars, windows etc… They got in trouble so they had to let that activity go and they were running around looking for something to get into.
I leave the sanctuary to get a stapler from the office and as I was walking out of the office, I hear the drums and they boys screaming in the sanctuary. I lock up the office and run next door. The scene went like this:
“RUN SHE’S COMING!”
“HANG ON! DON’T RUN! SIT DOWN RIGHT NOW!” This is my best mom voice!
All three of the boys stop dead in their tracks and sit down.
“Now, I’m calling the police because you guys are trespassing.”
“NO! PLEASE DON’T!”
Three boys begin to look really scared.
“Too bad! You guys need to learn a lesson. You can’t just run into places and do whatever you want! There are a lot of expensive things in here and you can’t just go banging on stuff without permission. You have to learn to respect stuff and you have to learn manners.”
“NO! PLEASE DON’T! LET US WORK IT OFF! WE’RE SORRY! WE WON’T DO IT AGAIN.”
A couple of the boys begin to get teary.
“So, here’s the deal I’m willing to make. You have to promise never to do this again. You all can come and play drums and stuff but you have to ask first and you have to be supervised. If you do this again, I really will call the police. Got it?”
“Yes! Thanks! So we can play the drums if we ask permission first?”
“Yes. You can play with permission and with supervision.”
“Okay, and we’ll walk Lulu if you want.”
“No, that’s fine. I want you guys to have stuff to do but we have to have some ground rules. So let me show you how to play the instruments and what you can mess with and what you can’t touch.”
“Do you think we can be in the band?”
“When you’re in 7th grade you can.”
“They’ll let us? Are you really sure?”
“Yes, they’ll let you be in the youth band. I’m really sure. Just use your manners in the house of God.”
In about 15 minutes they were trying to coordinate a song and trying to drum to a beat. The song? We Will Rock You by Queen.
I know the story of two of these boys. Their moms are stay at home moms and on drugs. The third boy lives with his grandparents but I’m unsure about where his parents are. They basically fend for themselves and no one ever comes to check on them. Ever. They eat whatever we have around the offices. They are generally unclean and unkempt and they have gutter mouths, but you know what? They are little boys. These aren’t big kids. The oldest one is a third grader. Hopefully today we struck a deal. I needed to get their attention and I needed to give them a place to go. You know something? After we made rules, they were sweet. Boys nevertheless, meaning they ran around, they yelled and they played. I wish their parents could see that with some boundaries, care, love and concern they’d have some really great future men to lead our country.