Life in the Slow Lane

I recently went to Ft. Worth to visit a friend in the hospital. At one point while I was on I-20, I came up behind some slow moving traffic. I checked both mirrors, and looked over my left shoulder. There was no one coming, so I pulled into the left lane and began to pass an 18-wheeler.

Suddenly my rear-view mirror was filled with the reflection of the massive grill of a large pickup – I mean, this guy was RIGHT ON my bumper. I was already going a few miles an hour over the speed limit to get around the truck that was now beside me, but I sped up as much as my little car could. I finished passing the truck and pulled back into the right lane, and the guy in the pickup roared past me, leading about three or four more cars behind him. I was going well over the speed limit by this point, and they were leaving me behind like I was standing still.

I certainly realize that there are emergencies in life, and there are times when speed is necessary, for a variety of reasons. And I’m aware that no one ever had a hit song, “Life in the Slow Lane.” Still, it seems to me that many of us would do well to take a breath, and slow down a little bit from time to time.

I recently celebrated my eighth-year anniversary with CCC, and if there’s one thing that I’ve learned during that time, it is that relationships take time. There is no substitute for this. It takes time to get to know someone, and to share stories. It takes time to sip a cup of coffee and look at pictures of family, or to share a glass of iced tea and talk baseball. Friendships and good relationships with neighbors develop slowly, gradually, over a long time, and they can’t be rushed. But they don’t happen by accident. Good relationships occur when someone is intentional about making them happen.

We understand this principle applies in many areas of life. When you plant a garden, you invest time and effort, and then (and only then) can you harvest your crop. When you cook a meal, it takes time to let flavor develop. But many of us have lost our understanding of this.

In a society where microwave popcorn takes too long, we’ve lost our appreciation for slowness. We have the world literally in the palm of our hands, and we can just Google whatever we want to know, for instant solutions. In our rush to go to work, to raise our kids, to juggle everything we have to do, we miss out on the joys of slowing down and savoring moments. Even in our leisure, we rush to get somewhere, so we can take it easy, forgetting that life is a journey, not a destination. So not only are we forgetting to “stop and smell the roses” – we’re not even noticing that there is a rosebush.

The good news is, things don’t have to stay that way. Summer is a great time to practice slowing down just a little. Invite a neighbor over to sit on your porch or your patio and get to know one another over something wet and cold. Fire up the grill and practice your outdoor cooking skills for your family and friends – you’ll discover it’s time well spent, and you may also discover that conversations are more enjoyable over a charcoal fire.

Or just slow down and take a moment for yourself, and find some peace in the solitude.

It’s very common at graduations or weddings for parents to think about the baby that they brought home from hospital, seemingly only yesterday, but now that baby is grown up and moving out. The parents wonder, where did the time go? But by then, it’s too late to savor those moments. All you can do is cherish the moments to come.

It may take a little getting used to, and you can’t do it all the time, but there’s a lot to be said for occasionally pulling over, and enjoying life in the slow lane.

Young Leaders of Abilene

One of the most successful programs in CCC’s history is about to launch its second year. By almost any standard, Young Leaders of Abilene (YLA) has been a hit!

YLA began about a year ago, with a grant from the the Ruth and Bill Burton Family Endowed Fund at the Community Foundation of Abilene, allowing us to develop a new summer program for the young people of IMG_20150601_121106our neighborhoods. The idea was to recruit middle-school and high school students, give them some training, and put them to work as “camp counselors,” for a week of day camp in an Abilene neighborhood. We came up with a theme – Caring in Action – and we went to work finding teenagers who could become our counselors.IMG_20150601_130958

We began talking with families from our various neighborhoods, with whom we had built relationships; from there, we branched out and talked with some of their friends who also were interested. We ended up with about 15 kids who would serve as camp counselors. Early last June, right after school was out, we met for a week at the North Park Friendship House, and started helping them become a team.

We did various activities to help them get to know one another; the kids also brainstormed about what kinds of snacks to serve the campers, what kinds of games to play, what kinds of craft projects to do. As much as possible, we wanted to promote and develop leadership within our team of counselors. We held a day of “practice camp,” and then, ready or not, it was time to start.

We conducted four weeks of day camps in different Abilene neighborhoods, where CCC had a presence – Stevenson, College Heights, Valley View, Holiday Hills. Sometimes we had good turnout, other times not as much as we hoped, but it was good to see our counselors stepping up and being the leaders for the camps – and role models for the younger ones. It was good for the elementary school kids to see their older sisters, brothers, cousins, neighbors – kids who looked like them, and that they knew – running this program, with guidance and help from the CCC coordinators. And it was good for the families in those neighborhoods to have something positive for their kids to do.IMG_20150616_135805

By the end of the summer, we were tired but happy with the results we had seen. In the year since then, YLA has continued to function, and most of the counselors from last summer are still active with the program.

We have been meeting about once a month – one month, the young leaders will meet at my house, to visit, hang out, eat, and plan a service project. Then the next month, we will meet in another neighborhood, to host an event for the kids & neighbors there, including a Fall Festival in Holiday Hills, a Christmas party in Stevenson, and a Valentine’s party at Cobb Park. In early May, we went back to Holiday Hills for a “Spring Fling,” in association with our friends from House of Faith.

So, what’s next? Our plans for this summer  include growing the program to include five IMG_20150618_140140weeks of camp — thanks to another gift from the Ruth and Bill Burton Family Fund and the T & T Family Foundation at the Community Foundation of Abilene–and we’ve recruited some new counselors to join some “old hands” who are returning this year. Our schedule for this year is:

  • Week 1 – Holiday Hills, June 13-16
  • Week 2 – North Park, June 27-30
  • Week 3 – College Heights, July 11-14
  • Week 4 – Valley View, July 25-28
  • Week 5 – Service Week, August 8-11 (various locations)

Gandhi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Maybe giving a few teenagers jobs as camp counselors won’t change the world; maybe holding a few weeks of day camp in different neighborhoods won’t either.

But maybe, it’s a start.