Guest Post: Salt of the Neighborhood

by T.J.

Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”

My kids attend a great public school, and one thing I’ve enjoyed most is getting to know the families in our neighborhood. There is, however, one family I could do without. My eight-year-old son, Branson, has gone to their home a couple of times, and I felt uncomfortable about a number of things: vulgar talk, bad language, way-too-mature movies, and unsupervised 4-wheel riding on neighborhood streets without helmets.

So, I was just kind of hoping we could ignore this family. Screen their phone calls and remain unavailable for playdates. Stay friendly on school grounds, but keep conversations light and airy and non-committal. And advise my son to pick another boy to eat lunch with – especially since this little guy enjoys rehashing his favorite PG-13 and R movies over PB&J’s.

But something about ignoring them didn’t seem right.

Easy, yes. Right, not so much.

So last Friday, this boy saw me at school and asked if Branson could come over. I ducked the question, explaining that it was a full day (which it was), but we might have him over soon (which we wouldn’t). Not ten minutes later, I ran into his mom, and she also asked if her son could come over to my house – as a favor. Yikes! Of course I said yes.

So off we went, my crew accompanied by this foul-mouthed, cocky, designer-clothes-wearing little boy. I noticed a friend watching us walk to our car, and I felt a little self-conscious under her sober smile. In the fifty yards from the school yard to my suburban, this little guy spouted a handful of terms my kids deem “bad words.” Branson kept glancing at me, wondering how I would react, and I threw him reassuring smiles.

Once in the car, I looked back and locked eyes with our friend for just a moment. And in that moment, the Lord surprised me with an overriding compassion and – well, love – for this brown-eyed eight-year-old boy.

On our short drive home, the stream of crass phrases continued. I looked at my son and quietly said, “Hey, I admire that you can be friends with someone and not make all the same choices they make.”

Branson glanced over his shoulder to the third row and casually said, “Hey man, you can’t say those words. I have a couple of little sisters, and our house rules are a little different.”

I didn’t have to say a word.

The boys spent the next couple of hours throwing the football and playing the Wii and eating pizza on our back deck. For part of the time I remained out of sight but within earshot. But when I could, I engaged in conversations and hugged that boy with long, tight hugs, letting him know he was welcome in our home.

Before leaving, he wanted to tell me two things. One, that this was only the third time he’d been invited to someone’s house, ever. And second, could he please come and spend the night next weekend?

It’s just a start. I don’t know where this friendship is headed – between our boys or even between our families – but I’m not fearful like I once was. God gave me a glimpse last week not only of my son’s growing maturity, but also of this little boy’s tender and treasured heart. Why would we not be the ones to embrace him?

Thank you, Lord, for the part I can play in Your spiritual battle. Forgive me of my fear, the fear that takes away my “saltiness.” Help me to extend Your love to all people – encouraging those who already know You, and “fertilizing” those who don’t.


6 Responses to Guest Post: Salt of the Neighborhood

  1. October 20, 2008 #

    TJ, this is a beautiful story. I can really relate! As parents, we want to shelter our children from the bad things of the world. And we should! But what about those people who aren’t sheltered? Who will reach out to them, if we don’t?

    Thank you so much for your transparency. What an important reminder to us all.

  2. October 21, 2008 #

    It seems to me that God has put this little boy directly in your path. Who knows what will come of it? I wish I could meet Branson – he sounds fantastic!

  3. October 21, 2008 #

    Renae- you are kind to share your wonderful blog with friends. It needs NO improvement whatsoever, but it shows your open hand with the influence with which the Lord has blessed you. Thank you for your ministry to so many.
    TJ- loved this story and it makes me so happy to see the Lord making clear (and straight) this path He has placed you and your family on. As I have said before, I don’t think the school will ever be the same again.
    I am once again challenged to make sure my eyes are wide open for the oppportunities the Lord gives us.

  4. October 21, 2008 #

    T.J., what a poignant reminder. I’m thinking right now of a couple in myneighborhood and I’m ashamed of my lack of action in our relationship. God, forgive me, please.


  5. October 21, 2008 #

    Thanks, Krista! And thank you all for your comments to TJ. She’s pretty awesome, isn’t she?

  6. October 22, 2008 #

    T.J., I love this story that makes it so clear what it means for a little boy to meet up with someone who is truly “salt.” What a difference we can make if we consider everyone who crosses our path to be sent for a reason… Lord, help me to think like that.

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