Earlier this week I was in the Roseland Community Center for a meeting. Just last week Central Dallas Ministries finalized a contract agreement with the Dallas Housing Authority that gives us the opportunity to manage the new community center at Roseland Homes, a public housing property owned and operated by DHA.
The new center is a much-needed and amazing community asset. The new gymnasium comes complete with a hardwood floor that manages to put spring in even my legs!
The challenge of operating the new center will be large, but what a gift to us and, more importantly, to a part of the city that we are devoted to completely. Roseland Homes is one of "our places."
While I was there, a group of young men piled out of a van and entered the center. They ranged in age from about 14 to 17. They all wore the same basic pants and white tees. They were all a bit subdued, but polite as I greeted them.
A couple of older guys (no more than 25-years-old) appeared to be their coaches.
I overheard them ask our center director for a basketball.
She razzed them a bit: "What's y'all comin' over here without a ball? I ain't got no ball!"
When they hesitated without an answer, she broke into a big smile and produced basketballs they could use.
Everyone laughed and the game began.
Stupid me asked them if they were "a team."
"No," one of the leaders said. "We're from the juvenile center."
Finally, I got it.
These kids were on a supervised field trip out of the facility where the courts had placed them for some criminal action.
The game was part of their daily routine. They were using our new center because our director there, like all of our directors, is constantly reaching out to connect with folks who are a vital part of the inner city where we work.
Kids in trouble--definitely a part of the texture, the story of our neighborhood.
As I spoke to these young men, I welcomed them into our "new house." I told them they were going to help us "break it in." I didn't really know who they were or why they were there.
Reflecting on the group after I understood there reason for being there, I didn't change my mind.
These young men need what my children needed and still need. Respect. Adults who care, who will listen and who will help with connections. They need a safe place to play, to hang out and to be kids. They need education. They need jobs. They need space for self-discovery, as well as self-revelation. They need to know that others value them simply for their unique humanity.
They need adults who love them without condition and who will not give up on them.
As I left, it made me feel really good that they were sweating it out on the gym floor.
But, I've got to tell you, I can't stop thinking about all of the other needs they have that if fulfilled, will make all the difference in the world in their lives and futures.