The opportunities which God chooses to give us can sometimes be surprising. We moved here 14 months ago, and, while our adult neighbors all seem to prefer to keep to themselves, their kids do not. We live between two sisters and their families. The girls on one side of us are 9 and 12, and the kids on the other side are older, in their teens and maybe even early 20s. On any given day, you will find children ranging from age 8 to 14 all playing together in our yard, in the old factory parking lot two lots down from us, in one of the other two yards, or even on Elm Street, which separates us from one of the neighbors(please be cautious on Elm Street local readers!). At times, our 14 year old neighbor very contentedly tosses a ball around with our 8 year old daughter (I am mindful and supervise this).
I have to admit that I am a little flabbergasted by this. So many people have told me it would never be this way. I believe this is the way it should be, but it seems like so many disapprove of this slower pace of growing up. Our society seems to believe that children should only play with kids their own age. Why is that? I was told years ago that I needed to consider pushing my then 6 year old child to give up some of his childish ways, that, if I didn't, other kids would start to notice that he was different. The follow up point to this person's thoughts was that she had done that very thing because they can't be little forever. It broke my heart for her child a little.
Thankfully, neither of my children have ever had any trouble finding friends or playing with other children of all ages. Age is a non-issue to them since they haven't spent any time in a segregated classroom other than those at church. I will hold onto this little nugget of goodness.
What is surprising me the most is how much our 12, almost 13, year old neighbor wants to spend time here. She comes over almost daily to spend time here. She plays outside with our kids, and I mean she really plays! Yesterday, she and Ava made a mud hole under our big tree in the side yard and then spent the entire afternoon making mud pies and decorating them with tiger lilies. They had a blast! Twice in the past week, she has joined us for our family worship time. She goes to church with us on Wednesday evenings. She asks to join us for dinner or to spend the night, and she has joined us for a movie night more than once. She is here more than her 9 year old sister!
I don't know what will become of this great opportunity we have been given to be an influence in this child's life, but I am grateful for it. I never imagined myself influencing soon-to-be teenagers, but here I am. Can you believe that both our 12 and 14 year old neighbors actually added me on Facebook?
What I think is that the world gives teens a bad wrap, and I want to enjoy building these relationships and knowing these kids for who they are, even if there is a little grime there. I pray that the Lord guides my footsteps and words in this great opportunity to be Jesus to these great kids who live beside us, and I pray for my own kids that they can be influencers also.