Issue 5, Vol 2. June 2012
Last month, my 1993 Toyota Camry finely gave up the ghost. May it rest in peace. Suddenly, getting around town became quite difficult. Being carless, I could have found myself being virtually stranded. Fortunately, I have a friend who let me borrow his vehicle until we could figure out what to do about my car situation. My two-week dilemma caused me to reflect on the transportation issues that often face those who live in Azalea Park.
Many people in Azalea Park do not have cars. They walk, ride their bicycles, or take the city bus. When we started New Hope, transportation was not issue to which we had given much thought. After all, our ministry was going to be right there in the neighborhood. How could there be a transportation issue? One year later, we realize that all the children in our tutoring program live within ¼ of a mile of the J. Carlton James Center. We had never considered that a distance of ¾ mile might prevent kids from coming to a tutoring program. We assumed their parents would drive them. Now we realize that to reach some of the kids in the neighborhood, we will have to provide them with transportation.
Back in the fall, we had several families that attended a Saturday worship service. They walked with their children. Afterwards, they told us that it had taken them 45-minute minutes to walk to the service. I was shocked. It never occurred to me that it could take that long to walk across the neighborhood. Later, I looked it up on Google Maps. Those families had walked 1.25 miles. From that day forward, we made sure that everyone had a ride to church. Last Saturday, we caravanned 17 people from the neighborhood to our worship service. Those two problems are relatively easy to solve. Other transportation problems are a little more difficult.
For example, have you ever considered what a grocery shopping trip looks like for a single mom without a car? In Azalea Park, you would have to walk about ½ mile to the Dollar Store with your children. Then, you walk back home carrying as many groceries as you can, while attempting to maintain control of your children during the walk back home. Fun times!
Lafayette does have a bus system that does make traveling a little easier, but it is not nearly as easy as you might think. Lafayette’s bus system only travels in one direction in a complete loop: the bus routes do not go back and forth. This is how it works for one lady we know. After the bus drops her off, she must walk a little more than one mile to her job. On her return trip, she must walk more than 1½ miles to a different bus stop. If her home is ½ mile from the bus stop, then she walks over 3½ miles each day to and from work each day. Rain, fog or Louisiana heat, she walks.
Near the end of the school year, one of our students received a one-day suspension. For him to be reinstated in school after his suspension there was a mandatory parent meeting with the principal. This mom had no car. There is not a bus route that goes near this particular school. The family lives 4.3 miles from the school. How does she make it to the parent-principal meeting at 7:45 AM?
We know one great grandma of who lives in the town of Scott. She walks 5 miles one way to visit her great grandson: the Lafayette city bus system does not run to the town of Scott. One mom who helps us with our tutoring program wanted to enroll her middle school-aged son into one of Lafayette’s schools of choice. Even with taking the city buses, she and her son ended up walking over six miles to attend the interview.
The good news about these transportation issues is that they can become great avenues to demonstrate God’s care and compassion for our neighbors. Driving someone around to help them fill out job applications could be a great way to demonstrate God’s love. The simple act of offering to take a friend to a grocery store becomes a meaningful act of compassion. As we make these little trips, they might help us remember that no matter how busy we are; at least we don’t have to walk 45 minutes round trip to the Dollar Store and carry our groceries back home.
God’s plan is that we demonstrate compassion to one another. Godly compassion is a two-lane highway. As we reach out to others, He transforms us. By offering mercy, we discover gratitude. By offering our time, we learn to love. As we learn to love, we develop friendships that teach us things about life, about God’s love, and about ourselves that we could learn no place else.
Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and your support.