My Bright Sadness

Coaching an urban youth swim team requires deeper capacities for sadness and hope.
My Bright Sadness
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It happened again.

I was the luncheon speaker at a conference for Christian foundation executives. The talk certainly began well enough. I read Jeremiah's exhortation to the exiles to seek the peace of their city as the friendly, khaki-and-polo clad audience made its way back from the Hilton's ample buffet. While the executives finished Caesar salads, I reflected on the difference between urban and suburban ministry. During roast beef sandwiches, I described our shift to a more Trinitarian urban ministry model. Over brownies, I talked about coaching an urban youth swim team.

I told them about dropping Randall, one of our young swimmers, at his house after a meet late one July evening where a half-dozen adults partied on his front porch. "Randall swam great!" I shouted to the crowd. No one paid attention. Randall got out of the car holding his crumpled ribbon and towel. A woman left the party to meet the little boy. "Get the — inside," she snarled.

I told them about Martin, an eleven-year-old wisp of a boy with sad blue eyes and ribs sticking out everywhere, who shocked us all last February by pushing down his best friend and saying, "I've killed three men, nigger, and now I'm gonna to kill you." Martin has never killed anybody. But he knows people who have. Two months later, a social worker called to tell me that the Department of Children's Services had picked up Martin at school after "something ugly" happened in his home. Martin and I have spent three years together, yet I may never see him again.

I told them about Reverend Arnold, the courageous pastor who works with neighborhood gangs and sees our little swim team as a possible way of escape ...

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My Bright Sadness
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