Friday, March 13, 2009

It's All Around Us

As I write today, it is a cold, wet Thursday morning. I have ensconced myself at a window seat in a Macdonald's near Baylor Hospital, close to downtown Dallas. I just dropped off a friend for his daily radiation treatment in his fight against cancer and headed here to think and write and read a bit.

It's late morning and busy here. Mostly with senior citizens who come and enjoy the low priced “senior coffee” and conversation each each other. I like the atmosphere—people of every color and background, some alone, some conversing, all feeling some level of comfort and warmth and safety. Cleanliness and order rule the day: the tables and floors immaculately clean, the bathroom sparkles with frequent attention. 

A gentleman with a walking stick, backpack and bluetooth set just took the table next to mine, a phone conversation in progress—sounds like important business. An older couple with two adorable, smiling grandchildren wrapped against the wet cold enter. The already pleasant atmosphere brightens even more. One senior citizen, putting his trash in the receptacle, immediately greets them and says, “Give me five!” I offer my own joy and words of greeting. The two small boys simply beam on anyone who walks by. Their smiles are sunshine on this gray, damp day.

Spanish predominates. I enjoy the rhythms of the language even when I cannot understand the words. It's a language of beauty and grace—easy to see why my oldest son fell in love with it and has insisted that his own children learn Spanish first, and then English. This is heritage worth preserving.

A young African-American man converses animatedly with an older man of Asian ancestry. A white woman sits in companionable closeness to her Hispanic friend. The man with the backpack and bluetooth continues his conversation—he's counseling someone not to panic over some sort of health-related business issue. His deep south accent soothes, offering comfort to one clearly in distress.

I grew up not far from this part of Dallas. I remember the days of great racial tension, and being told by my parents not to venture into this part of town alone. I remember a life when this kind of racially mixed company would have been viewed with horror or fear. I am grateful that we have made progress, that we are all seen as human and worthy of respect and dignity.

Jesus spoke all the time about the Kingdom of Heaven being all around his followers. He told them, “if you've got ears to hear, then listen.” I'm gaining those ears. I'm listening. Right off this busy intersection in old East Dallas, the Kingdom of Heaven is all around me. It permeates quietly, supported by small acts of kindness and love and generosity. The changes are often gradual—so tiny we don't even recognize them until suddenly our eyes are opened and we see, “Wow—look what has happened over the years.”

No comments: