This past year was full of opportunities to continuously change direction, to move all the way from plan A to plan Z. Yet one of the greatest gifts of my Christian walk and my work at Parker Street is a push to reflect, to remember God’s goodness, and to work in some Mary and not just my “go to” Martha tendencies. I have learned healthy reflection includes time to lament losses and then intentional movement to hope.
A time to be lost
When we shut down last March, I just held my breath. As neighborhood families were struggling to find childcare, reliable internet service, keep their jobs, and mask their fears for the sake of their children, I held on to hope that it would not be too long. As I talked to teachers and guidance counselors about the long-term effects of these academic slides, I was hopeful that we could make up the difference during summer camp. Then the time came to plan summer camp, and it became clear there would be no normal.
Then the fall semester ushered in increased effort as we worked joyfully but intensely from early morning, serving eLearners, and continuing throughout the whole day. In the afternoons, brick-and-mortar students stayed in the traditional program until 6pm each day. Even for experienced staff, the mobile learning environment had a steep learning curve. Every day brought new challenges we could not predict. And there was no obvious blame to shift on to others. All the adults in the room – tutors, parents, teachers – struggled alongside the kids.
Last fall, with no end to the obstacles in sight, fears that originally pricked the surface began to dig a lot deeper. A mountain of research is bolstering those fears. Reading articles about it is very sobering and offers more insight into what we are observing here. For an idea, see the Washington Post’s, “A lost generation: Surge of research reveals… most vulnerable worst affected”
A time to be found
It is hard to think that many of those that are most vulnerable will struggle even more. Yet in all of this, there is beauty. Beauty knowing that God is with us. He finds us. He sees and knows AND has greater purposes and a plan. I am thankful to Him for giving us glimpses of this beauty and purpose. Through many of our efforts to adapt and continue to provide any sense of our normal rhythms, God showed Himself faithful and connections with neighbors grew.
Here are just a few examples: Kids showed up all summer long to sweat outside during Summer Camp 2.0, a/k/a Backyard Lunch and Learn. Future Workforce for Young Adults doubled its size while students rolled with all the COVID safety expectations while the Lakeland community opened its doors for safe tours, job training, and volunteer opportunities. Neighborhood Christmas Store was more intimate and in lots of ways more meaningful. These are just tiny glimpses of the great work that God is doing around us and during a pandemic.
May it end soon, but more importantly may we look to Him as our Hope to come.