we lived in a deep southern town that was basically 50% black and 50% redneck. (sorry lake cityans, but its pretty true.) when i was a kid, i actually saw the kkk march down main street. we even had people burn crosses in our front yard. lake city, florida was a tough place in the late 80's - early 90's, and i was right in the middle of the racial conflict.
as one of the only white kids on the basketball team, many of my closest friends were black. i stayed over at their house, and they came over to mine. so many great memories. i loved those guys.
the first time i had a bunch of my friends from the team over to my house to stay the night, i wondered if my parents would be uncomfortable. after all, we had just moved from dallas, texas where we lived in an area where there were very few black people. before that, we lived in boise idaho, where, during those days you could go years without seeing a black person!
so i just didn't know how it would go. soon, my 12 or so buddies were all over the house... running around, playing basketball, jumping on the trampoline, swimming, diving in the fridge, etc. i remember waking up around 2 or 3 in the morning to a bunch of noise, and walking downstairs to see what was up. my dad was playing poker with a few of the guys and they were having so much fun, laughing so hard. i remember thinking to myself... my pops is a pretty cool guy.
after high school, my dad made a commitment to follow jesus. the man who was once a hardcore disciplinarian, started to become a softie. his heart changed. he loved my mom differently. when i came home from college he would hug me differently. everyone in my family knew this change was real.
life has taken all kinds of twists and turns since then. as i have followed God all over the place, my parents (although sometimes reluctantly!) have been very supportive. even the year we moved to pennsylvania with the schmidt family and my folks thought we had joined some kind of cult (haha), it wasn't long before they were loving the schmidt's as if they were their own.
they have always welcomed (practically adopted) my friends into the family, no questions asked. from my black youth basketball team 25 years ago all the way to my 30 guatemalan boys today... and every white, asian, black, and latino friend in between.
|my parents & their neighbors with the leivas in florida|
when mynor came home and was telling me about it, he said to me, "brock, who loves like that?".
another friend of mine told me recently that my mom and dad are like the parents he never had.
some other best friends of ours have spent every easter sunday for the last 10 years at my parents house. the crazy part about that story is that my own family hasn't been there for the last 9 years!
there are countless more stories. helping out my friends when things are tight. supporting their ministries. giving them a place to stay. giving them work. they are 2nd parents and 2nd grandparents to many. better put, they are simply "mimi and papa" to everyone.
all of my friends say the same thing - how much they love my parents. but what touches my heart the most, is how much my parents love them.
a couple years ago, we took 15 boys from guatemala to the florida to play in a soccer tournament. we were going to stay in a hotel, but our budget was too tight. so we packed into my parents place instead.
we pulled into the driveway to find my parents and sisters waiting on the front porch with open arms. my mom had bought each boy a bathing suit and a disposable camera. they had borrowed enough sleeping bags and pillows that each boy had a nice place to sleep.
in charge of all the food, my mom was the first one up and the last one to bed. before i crashed at the end of each long day, i will never forget what i heard each night as my mom walked back and forth from the kitchen.
|bladimir at jax beach 2015|
"te amo mimi", over and over, would break the silence of the quiet, dark house.
my mom would loud-whisper "te amo" back, and sometimes "te amo too", which of course would make them laugh.
keep in mind, this is not a group of boys that says "i love you" to their own parents. nor do they hear it said to them - ever.
as all of the rhinos ran around my parents place, treating it like it was their own house for 6 straight days, i would sometimes just find myself in a daze, thinking about things.
one was how much mimi and papa love to give. another was how little they care about their stuff, even though their stuff is very nice.
but i also thought about my high school basketball team sleepovers during the years of racial divide in lake city, florida. i even thought of how my parents allowed me go sleep over at my black friends' homes (on the literal "other side of the tracks"), when i knew that other parents (and even our black head coach!) thought they were crazy.
among many other things, my folks taught me to treat everyone the same. they taught to me how to love people. and i am very thankful for that.
so to answer that question - "what kind of love is that?". i think the way mimi and papa love is kind, patient, unselfish, sacrificial, and unconditional.
which sounds a lot like God's love for each one of us.