When Harry met Sarah

I never saw that movie by the way. I don't plan to.

If you know me well, you know when I'm really angry or upset, Im quiet. If I'm seemingly angry, but still yelling....then we're mostly good. I lose words when Im to the point. Resultingly, I pray or commune with God at times in pictures. Mental pictures. Im not referring to visions or anything supernatural in this instance.

Like after my mom suddenly died, I was far too overcome to look at God for quite a while. I did not turn my eyes to the hills from which my help came. I had these times of sitting in this old, overstuffed blue recliner chair in my silent apartment and rocking and staring. It was a sun-filled apartment and the usually rowdy, rocking complex was quiet in the daytime hours. I knew I wasn't alone and had the comfort of knowing the Lord and his angels were heavy with me many days as I rocked in my utter grief. In my mind's eye, I was comforted my images of God looking at me while I looked away. I was not TURNED away in my heart, but too tight and angry to let his comfort fully envelope me. I wasn't ready.

When shortly after we moved here to North Carolina and I was in the throes of deep cultural shock and heart achingly missing my only home, and Romel was shot in the heart - I had no words with God. Instead, I had this picture of me staring at God, standing there with a horror struck and panicked countenance pointing directly at Romel lying in a hospital bed. It was not irreverent, it was not doubtful. I knew whom to take that outrage and horror directly to, and I knew God shared those feelings. I also am not unsure about God's ability to weather and love me through all my emotions and fleeting-ness. Im also not making this an evangelistic blog where I list to justify all the characters of the Bible and the scriptures that have assured me of this truth. (Romel recovered, he is fine. Miracles upon miracles of grace).

And now, with the death of Harry. I don't know Harry well enough to know his salvation. He was not one of the boys that adopted me immediately. He was Donnell's from the get go. This is also not a question I will ask of any of my friends who mentored, coached, pastored, etc because I don't want to know the answer. Not because Im afraid of the answer, but because I am not comforted either way. Its ok if you don't understand that.

Some of my favorite memories and times in life before the birth of my biological son were with the teen boys in Woodlawn. We had this basketball team in the summer, and it brought in boys that didn't usually frequent the ministry for other more educational or strictly faith-oriented programs. Miracle League definitely preached the gospel, but it also included lots of basketball. Sometimes, the Miracle League boys didn't even want to come into the ministry while waiting for the van to go to practice and games. This was fine by me because they stood on the corner and my office was the first floor corner office. I started talking to them by putting up colorful, post it notes to them in the windows. They thought I was weird and funny and we went from there. I worked with some men to make Miracle League a year round program at Sunshine because I loved these boys the most. I can't help it, I have favorites. I think you lie if you say you don't. Anyway, it was glorious. I drove these boys around the city to games and practices and because I was mad at/sick of Christian Hip Hop I forced them to endure Mumford and Sons and Of Monsters and Men and they groaned and rolled their eyes and tied their hoodies up around their heads to block the sounds. I also filled in as coach when Donnell couldn't make it twice, even though I don't know the rules to basketball. I kept score and messed up the score boards and the time clock at a tournament. Many times I was the only woman in a crowded, yucky, sweaty gym.

The day I met Harry we had a tournament in some far off suburb. The SGM Lions (who I also alternatively called Sarah's Smooshies) had their matching black and yellow t-shirts on and as we loaded up the vans someone new was among us. I can't remember if he came as a friend of Jawon (kid on the team) or as someone with skills that Donnell recruited to fix our losing streak. But there he was, and he didn't care about me. I don't think he answered me when I asked boldly who he was. Donnell threw him a shirt as we loaded up and I probably looked him up and down, but he got in my van. This thing about Harry was that he wasn't from our neighborhood, he was from another one a little further away. The boys from our neighborhood, even ones I didn't personally know, usually knew who I was. Either because Malik, Dro, Hershey, Alvin, Bubba or Dupri had told them, or because they saw me walking around. I stuck out but I don't think I always thought I did. Harry was new around there so he didn't know who this odd lady was and probably didn't respect her place in all of this yet. I remember his shock as I blared some ridiculous song and sang along and how all the other boys totally ignored it as if this was normal, because it was to them and they had figured out resistance was futile. I heard Harry whisper to Jawon, "WHO is that?" and Jawon nonchalantly and cheerfully answered, "Thats Ms. Sarah." I liked that he didn't think it needed further explanation.

We had a ton of extra boys at this tournament, it was far away, and the day was long. By the end of the day, we were sitting in the gym and they were all mad because I think we didn't get the trophy we thought we were going to get or something. We were the only team in the gym and Donnell had gone to talk to the people who were in charge about the trophy debacle. Some of the boys started getting loud with each other and squaring off and I broke it up and make them sit down, but they kept it up. I had enough and stood up and yelled super loud something to the effect that if they wanted to keep it up I would drag them outside and beat them all up and give them something to be upset about. They knew I was actually angry and chose to sit down and grumble and stare at each other. Harry was open mouth confused. He said in a very loud whisper as I walked away to go find Donnel, "But your white?" Everyone, including me, laughed. It was this scene before the movie came out: CLICK ME

But Harry was serious. I ignored him. He warmed to me mildly by the end of the day. And as we crowded together to listen to Coach Donnell for a final talk, Harry sat right next to me. We were all shoved together in a tight space and Harry sat so close to me that he was almost on my lap. So close that when he farted a minute later, I felt it all down my leg and interrupted Donnell by screaming about it. Harry just said "My bad" and moved over a few inches.

Harry was amazing at basketball. He was kind, and respectful and became good friends with Jawon and Jeremiah and was a regular on the SGM Lions. I saw him a lot that year and he showed up at my apartment with the other boys somewhat regularly and he never farted on me again.

He wasn't one of the boys that I kept up with, but he was special and loved by many of the staff that have stayed on at Sunshine. He went on on two of the annual trips to Montana and I see by their fb posts and comments that they are grieving along with all of us.

Everything doesn't happen for a reason, that's not in the Bible and don't say that dumb crap to people who are grieving. Also, Black Lives Matter. Thats a bible truth and try that one on for size instead.  Let me know if you need help exegeting that, I'm here for you.

I won't get to attend Harry's funeral this week. I won't be able to contribute and comfort and be comforted. I can't sit with my friends and eat and laugh about our memories to chase away the sadness, helplessness, confusion. Their texts and pictures help, but the distance between us is immense right now. So here was my favorite Harry stories, all on the day I met him.


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