Last week our church hosted Dr. Ganyor Yancey, Baylor professor of Social Work. Dr. Yancey spoke to our church out of her wealth of knowledge about how to transform communities by transforming lives. Her expertise is born out of scholarly pursuit tempered by over thirty years of practical hands on ministry on the hard streets of Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love and broken hearts.
During the week, I was particularly moved by her stories. As she shared her life experiences she parted the veil that hides true significant ministry from the “parts” so many of us play on the stage of “church work.” One afternoon, Dr. Yancey was dialoging with a team of leaders of an after school program in the heart of El Paso. At one point in the conversation she shared,
“You have to walk your children home if you are going to really understand them.”
Then she recounted the following story.
Dr. Yancey shared about a couple of little boys who were terrorizing her after school program in Philadelphia. Finally the boys had stepped over the line, and she was going to have to ban them from the program for the sake of the other children and workers. So she decided to walk the boys home to let their mother know they were not welcomed to return. So she began her long walk home with the boys.
As they neared the house one of the boys looked up at her and said, “The house will be dark when we get home–my mom keeps the shades drawn all day.” Dr. Yancey nodded and said, “That is alright–don’t worry.” A few more steps down the path, the little boy looked up and said, “My mom will probably be in bed when we get home–my mom is sick.” Again, Dr. Yancey assured the boy it was going to be alright. Then when they turned the corner leading to the house, the little boy whispered, “Dr. Yancey, my mother is dying.” Now Dr. Yancey was stunned. Once again she reassured the little boy, but wondered what she was walking into on the walk home.
When they arrived at the house, just as the little boy had promised, the blinds were drawn and the house was dark. As they entered the dark living room, Dr. Yancey made out the dark figure of the mother lying on the couch. Indeed she was sick. Dr. Yancey made her way to the couch and greeted their mother with kind words, and pulled up a chair next to the couch to talk as the boys hovered around her. The mother of the little boys opened her heart to Dr. Yancey by sharing her plight and fears as the little boys listened intently. Dr. Yancey comforted the mother and assured her that she would be there for her and her little boys no matter what happened–even when the worse came.
The transformation was sudden and remarkable. The two little boys that had terrorized the program were model citizens. Their hearts had been changed by the realization that Dr. Yancey loved their mother–and she loved them enough to walk home with them. She closed the story by observing, “You will never really understand the children until you walk home with them and see the world they live in.” Sadly, too many children just simply survive their homes.
As I have reflected on this story, I now realize why it is so important for us to know each other–knowing leads to understanding–understanding leads to loving. In many ways the life and ministry of Jesus was his version of walking us home. He walked our streets. He touched our wounds. We broke his heart.
In the lonely world we live in, let me encourage you to walk someone home this week–this simple little journey may make all the difference in the world for your companion on the journey–and who knows it may change your heart too.