Sometimes I sit on the balcony of our apartment which backs up to some woods between our building and Independence Boulevard in Charlotte. And every once in a while, men appear coming out of the trees just like that scene in Field of Dreams. Apparently they live in the woods.
I remember talking with a young man in Zada Jane’s Restaurant in the neighborhood a couple years ago who told me he lived in the woods by the highway and I thought he meant that he lived in a house there. I realize now that he meant he lived in the woods as in under the trees with the rabbits.
Who are those guys? They are literally my neighbors.
We all live near people who are invisible to us: the retired couple who rarely leave the house, the single woman of a certain age who walks her dog, the men who emerge from the woods every morning while I’m having coffee on my balcony.
We often fail to see the homeless neighbors or the lonely neighbors or the grieving neighbors or the addicted neighbors but they are all around us. Some of them are in plain sight and we still don’t see them.
One of our callings as The Church is to notice what’s going on around us. Where is there brokenness? Where is there injustice? Who is hurting? Who needs a hand?
We see our friends and others who look like they could be our friends. But we fail to see those who are different from us. Who are those guys?
It’s risky for me to try to befriend the men in the woods. One local businessman told me that they’re drug addicts so I should stay away. My family reminds me that not everybody is safe. Local police officers have advised those of us who live in homes with doors that we should not approach the people who live without doors.
And yet they are God’s people as clearly as I am.
For the longest time we in The Church believed that if we built it, people would come, but that’s a thing of the past. Today, God is calling us to go into the world and notice who’s out there.
In my neighborhood, there are men living in the forest without tents.
Image from the movie Field of Dreams.