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A summer in Memphis

Weeks 3 & 4: a story high

Elevate a story high and your perspective totally changes.

When I view Eva Street from the ground level, I see trash on curbs and windows with cracks.

I see an older man weaving down the block with a bottle hidden behind a brown paper sack; his sidesteps revealing that what is inside definitely isn’t Diet Coke. Soon after comes a young woman, leading her two young children to a church that offers free lunch. Soon after comes three teenage boys, swearing and pushing one another, acting the way they’ve been shown.

Now, raise up a story. As I sit on Mr. Ross’s roof, I see much more than just the brokenness of the street.

I see three neighborhood kids – DeWayne, Cameron and Telera – who asked me if they could spend their summer working with me on this hot roof. I see a choice these kids make – show up every morning at 8 a.m. to have “Miss Caroline” boss them around when they could join their friends on the stoop just across Eva. The roof offers a chance to discover what hard work and a purist of God looks like, in contract to the easy path of apathy and hopelessness that the street offers.

I see my crew of campers for week 4 — two middle schoolers, one high schooler and one adult leader from a small coal town in Kentucky. I see the bond they’re forming with these neighborhood kids — I see the lessons being exchanged.

I see my own misconceptions, my own pride, being broken down. What is it with our society’s obsession with perfection? Why do we have so many misconceptions about strength? I’m told over and over again by media and Hollywood that I’m supposed to have it all together and I’m supposed to have everything I want. I’m taught that to ask for help is to show weakness and to show weakness is to fail. And to fail is to lose your worth.

Why is it so uncommon to name the struggles your going through, to name your imperfections? How many times this week and the three before it have I lied to campers and fellow staff members when they asked me how I’m doing. “Fine,” I say. Or maybe even, “I’m doing really well.” Why is it so hard for me to say, “I’m feeling really weary today, but goodness isn’t it awesome to see the way God is working through my weakness to restore my strength.”

If I’m not owning up to my weaknesses, aren’t I just being fake? At what point do I finally realize that I am in fact not super woman and I was never called to be? When will I start owning my flaws? When will I stop regurgitating rehearsed answers to rehearsed questions that really mean nothing? When will we all finally realize that it’s only in our weaknesses that we are ever truly strong?

And yet on this roof, I don’t count my weaknesses as failures. When I’m frustrated and weary, I don’t see my pride. I call for help, God answers and once again I’m reminded that in weakness — in the weakness of my own heart and the weakness poverty brings to this street — a strength far bigger than us is revealed.


About carolinebmn

Caroline Bauman is proud to be a University of Missouri student and an aspiring journalist. She is not quite as proud of her coffee addiction, however.


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