Issue 11

Monday, October 11, 2010

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Saturday was a rotten day. Besides being windy and overcast I spent some time climbing a ladder cleaning gutters. Well, that was my goal anyway.

You see, I initially set up the ladder, climbed on top of the garage and started cleaning the gutter from above. That's when I saw the garage chimney was in need of repair. While walking over to the chimney I found some loose roofing which I was surprised to discover was covering a chipmunk sized hole right through the roof. Not good. OK, now I need to clean the gutters and then patch a hole and repair a chimney.

Since i don't know the condition of the roof around the hole, I decide to clean the gutters from atop a ladder and work my way along the back of the garage. Except before I can move the ladder the length back of the garage I would need to clear some brush. Brush, raspberry bushes, huge thorns and cheap gloves = lots of work and bloody hands.

The gutters are finally cleaned and I prepare to pack it in for the day. At that moment the downspout and elbows decide to fall down and land in pieces. Since it is starting to drizzle, I put them back together. Several times. Job done but depressingly it took 5 hours, I'm really dirty and now have 2 more jobs added to the to-do list.

As I cleaned myself up, and grumbled that I hate maintenance work, my phone rings. It was one of my teen leaders asking if I'd want to have a hang out night grabbing dinner with some of my junior staff. We decided on a Chinese buffet at a specific time. As soon as I hung up, a 9 year old from Stockade calls wanting to know if I could stop at his place and once again fix his bike. I look at my watch and see I can swing by his house on the way to dinner.

An hour later I am showing the 9 year old how to tighten his chain and wheel so that they both stay on the bike when he is riding it. Having checked with his Mom and my teen leaders earlier I invited him to grab dinner at the Chinese buffet. He was beaming, "a guys night out!" was what he yelled.

At the buffet the 5 of us are given a table. Quickly enough the teens and boy load up on crab legs, bacon wrapped shrimp and some green stuff. As I sit down a young man taps me on the shoulder and asks if I remember him. Immediately I do, he was in Stockade 7 or 8 years ago. We talk for a few minutes catching up and he laughs. he can see a 9 year old behind me trying to figure out how to get into a crab leg. He excuses himself after some very kind words about his time in Brigade.

After a crab eating lesson, I begin to eat and a lady walks up and says hello and she is followed by her adult son. He was in Brigade 15 years or so before and like the other young man I have not seen him since. We talk, he laughs at the group I have with me and states that some things never change. They excuse themselves and leave.

Just as I have a pile of shelled crab leg meat ready to eat there is another tap on my shoulder. A current Stockader who saw me and wanted to say hello. He asks me to come to his table to meet his friend and say hi to his Mom. I go and we chat for a few minutes. While chatting the teens and boy I am with walk by and let me know they are going for another round of crab legs because they ate all of theirs as well as mine and the table was now empty of food. The people I am talking with all laughed at the site of this gang of boys all talking at once while loading their plates.

I move back to my table to wait for these guys and just watch them. My bad mood from the maintenance work of the day lifts off me. I see a group of teens being polite to others while talking with each other and a short little 9 year old in the middle of them who is laughing and for some strange reason has crab shells stuck to his clothes. It's a very strange sight. I look around the restaurant and see 3 other tables with guys from CSB, two have turned out well and another is being worked on. My mind clicks and the whole day comes together. Periodic Maintenance Required.

You see, there were 7 boys/teens/young men in that restaurant that were or are a part of Brigade and most have, shall we say, interesting home-lives. One has a dad going to trial for trying to kill his mom. One had his dad suddenly abandon his family so he could move in with his boyfriend. Another had a debilitating disease and spent his boyhood years on crutches. Another I am simply thankful he shows up every week because his family is not very supportive of our group. These guys, past and present, have not always been the easiest to control. It would be easier to have neat, quiet, intelligent boys from stable 2 parent Christian homes who support us with prayer, money and time. That would be perfection and make things easy. But that's not real life.

Things wear out, things may be damaged through no fault of yours, everything requires maintenance. Maintenance is hard, takes time and is costly. A roof, gutters, chimney and brush demand work and attention. As you maintain or repair one area, you discover another that is next in line. It never ends.

The same is true in each of our Brigade units. As much as we sometimes may wish, we don't deal in perfection. We don't have all good, likable, Christian boys in our Brigade. We too often work with boys that are broken and need maintenance. Sometimes a lot.

How about setting up a maintenance plan with your boys? Work on a bike with a kid, find a reason to grab a pizza and hang out. Use this time with a small numbers of boys to discuss the gospel and what it is to be a Christian. If we work on the small things we begin to address and avoid some of the big things.

Maintenance can often mean hard work but it does pay off in the long run. At some point you may be blessed and find yourself in a Chinese buffet on a rainy Saturday night and not only enjoy the company of those with you but be allowed a peak into how the maintenance from years ago has paid off.

Copyrighted 2010 - Jim Szczodrowski