Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Like a Good Neighbor...

Melanie and I were awoken this morning by someone knocking at our front door. We didn’t answer. Not only were we unprepared to answer the door, but Peter and Creegan were still fast asleep. In fact, the very reason we didn’t answer the door last night was because we were in the midst of trying to get these very children to sleep. You see, the same person had come knocking at our door less than 12 hours earlier. It’s the same person who calls our home phone at least five times a day, often a dozen times per day. It’s our neighbor, Jimmy.*

Jimmy moved into our apartment complex a few months ago. He’s a fairly high-functioning adult, but he’s not as independent as most people his age. He has a gold medal or two that he received at the Special Olympics, if that helps you paint your mental picture. Jimmy called us out of the blue about a month ago, having been referred to us by some local church missionaries. Because we live in the same apartment complex, Jimmy was hoping we could give him a weekly ride to our church services. I admit, I was less than thrilled by this request. Almost the same thing happened to Melanie and me in Atlanta, where we suddenly became responsible for a complete stranger’s transportation needs. That brought certain challenges to our life, but we were a much smaller family then. We handled the chauffeuring fairly well. But things are different now. Melanie and I already struggle to get our family to church on time every week. Adding another person to the mix would not be easy. But of course, we wanted to help. So we said yes.

So far, the rides haven’t been a problem. Jimmy’s only gone to church with us twice in the last four weeks. But the phone hasn’t stopped ringing. He calls incessantly. We don’t answer it. Neither Melanie nor I have the time to stop and chat with the guy. But now he’s just showing up at our door. He lives only a few apartment buildings away from us, so he can get here in two minutes. I fear we’re going to feel trapped in our own home. I don’t mind giving the guy a ride, but random appearances at our door are not my cup of tea. The last time we gave him a ride to church, he showed up at our house about 30 minutes before we were ready to leave. Instead of waiting for us to call him to say we were heading over to pick him up, which is the official plan of action, he came to us. He didn’t call first. He just appeared. We were still struggling to get kids to put on their clothes. We were on the brink of eating lunch. It was incredibly awkward and stressful. As we tried to get kids dressed and shove food down their throats, Jimmy read us all of the text messages he had sent back and forth to a friend on the previous night. Jimmy was playing a joke on the friend, telling the friend that he (Jimmy) had been arrested for stabbing a person in the heart and killing him. That is what our kids got to hear as we tried to prepare them for church.

The first time Jimmy came to church with us, he ran into someone he had gone to church with when he lived in his previous apartment. Jimmy considered the person to be an old friend and was very excited to see him. This old friend, whom I’ll call Nick, seemed a bit unsettled to see Jimmy. Nick lives very close to Melanie and me and has been a decent friend to us. He’s been in our home several times. Shortly after Jimmy knocked at our door last night, Nick coincidentally called me up to talk about Jimmy. It’s important for you, the reader, to realize that Nick is one of the nicest, most generous and thoughtful people I’ve met. And Nick was calling me to warn me about Jimmy. Pretty much everything Nick said to me was something I’d already experienced, but he assured me this was just the beginning. He even said that Jimmy was quite literally the main reason he and his wife had decided to move across town. “Moving is the only way to stop it,” he told me. Bear in mind, Nick had done his best to be kind and helpful to Jimmy for a full two years before moving. And now Jimmy happens to move just around the corner from Nick. I can tell that Nick is panicking about this, but I’m happy to let the Jimmy problem fall into my lap for now. Still, as you can understand, I’m not without anxiety over the matter.

Maybe some of you think there is an easier solution to this than I realize. Maybe you think I should just explain to Jimmy that he should call before he comes over, etc. Perhaps that’s true. I don’t know how you say something like that, and I’m not sure how it would be understood or if the request would be respected. Nick said that Jimmy would complain to certain ecclesiastical leaders if Nick ever failed to give him rides or showed up late or anything like that. Supposedly, Jimmy would tell people that Nick wouldn’t help him or wasn’t doing what he’d said he’d do, etc. Nick, whom I remind you is an incredibly upstanding guy, felt that his reputation was truly being tarnished, that certain people really did talk to him as though he weren’t being a good and helpful person and was somehow shirking his moral duties. It’s hard for me to believe anyone could view Nick that way, especially based on Jimmy’s reports alone, but there’s no denying the urgency in Nick’s voice as he tried to warn me about the hardships that Jimmy brought to Nick’s own family. Knowing Nick, maybe he tried too hard. Maybe he helped too much to begin with. I’ve been keeping things to a minimum thus far, and I don’t have plans to reach out any more than I already have. I’m trusting this is the right move, but I can already see things spiraling a bit. And yes, I’m worried.

*Jimmy’s name isn’t really Jimmy. I feel compelled to change his name for this post, though I’m not sure why.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Potpourri No. 32

I’m alive!

Suddenly Last Summer
Tomorrow I will give the final lecture of what is hopefully my last summer of teaching at Florida State. If all goes well, I’ll be living somewhere else this time next year. Or just about this time, anyway. Melanie and I recently renewed our apartment lease through June 2013. Not long ago, I was given official notice that I’ll be funded (at half of my current rate) to stick around school through the fall in the hopes that I can finish up by December. If I don’t, I’ll probably get the same half-rate deal for spring 2013. Probably. It’s not guaranteed, but I’m not too concerned about it. Worst case scenario, I can probably leave Tallahassee in January and finish my Ph.D. from afar. That kind of thing happens. It’s bizarre to be talking about this stuff and know both that it’s for real and that it’s so close to becoming a reality. I don’t know whether to shout for joy or just puke.

A while back, I wrote about Melanie and me keeping (and reviving) our Toyota Corolla, making us officially a two-car family. This has turned out to be a tremendously good decision on our part. With me heading to campus fairly early every weekday for the last six weeks, it’s been incredibly convenient to have my own mode of transportation. The bus wouldn’t work too well that early in the morning (or at any other time, but some hours are worse than others) and it would be a disaster if Melanie and I had to get three kids out of the house every morning so she could drive me to school. I predicted that this is how I’d feel about having two vehicles, but in hindsight I’m even more grateful for our decision to keep the second car. It’s been blissful.

Fresh from the Garten
Edison graduated kindergarten a couple of weeks ago. Man, am I proud of him. And of Melanie, who of course took on a whole slew of responsibility in order to help Edison succeed. Truthfully, I’m also incredibly proud of Peter. He’s been quite the student himself, albeit unofficially so. Barely four years old, he can read a fair amount, sounds out words all the time, and has surprisingly good penmanship. What a bunch of smartypants my kids are! I love it!

Just Passin’ Through
My blog is fairly dead nowadays. It has been for a long time. I post on my blog much more often than people actually read my blog, and that’s pathetic because I don’t post very often at all. However, there is one post I wrote way back in April 2010 that continues to attract visitors. It’s a post about whether or not God created water, and it seems that due to its theological subject matter, people continually happen upon it via Google and whatnot. I still get comments on it on a somewhat regular basis. It has 14 comments now, which admittedly isn’t a ton, but it makes it one of my most commented-on posts of all time (with “all time” being almost eight years now.)

To Be Continued…
There are many more things I’ve wanted to blog about lately, but I just haven’t had the time. I promise I’ll try to post a bit more frequently now that the summer semester is wrapping up. Technically, I’ve got enough to be doing that I shouldn’t have any extra time to post to my blog. But I’ll try to squeeze in several posts, even if they’re small, over the next few weeks.