Everyday miracles in a rundown part of town
By Jessica Brodie
Some mornings on my drive to work, I take a shortcut through a neighborhood that’s a little sketchy. You know the type—the kind of neighborhood where you’d want to make sure your doors are locked, and you wouldn’t want to get a flat tire, but it’s not so bad that you’d avoid it entirely.
I kind of like the neighborhood. Even though the houses are rundown and there’s a vibe that maybe some of the residents were up to no good last night, there’s a lot of natural beauty. The trees are overgrown and untamed enough that you can see their raw state, not the way humans have maintained them. The flowers are a little wilder and less cut back, and probably a bit more lush because of that.
But now there’s something about that neighborhood that’s made me want to drive through it every morning instead of on occasion for the shortcut. See, there’s a group of five or six older gentleman who’ve started hanging out outside one of the houses. I can’t figure out why they’re hanging out—I don’t see a business sign, or a church decal, or anything else to explain it.
What these men do is, as the cars drive by, they lift up their hands in a casual hey-there-neighbor wave. And they do it for everybody! Me, the car in front of me that’s blaring loud music, the car behind me with the guy sipping Starbucks, for no apparent reason whatsoever.
At first, it gave me pause. Are they drug dealers? Do they think I’m somebody else? Are they trying to get me to turn in and buy something?
But as the days passed, and they kept it up, I realized they’re—yep—being friendly. They’re waving to people just because it’s nice, because they care, because they just want to brighten someone’s day.
I love these guys! Mind you, I’ve never stopped—where I grew up you never stop your car, I don’t care how “nice” someone seems—but I always wave back, toss out a smile, try to make eye contact. It’s been a couple of months now, and they keep it up every weekday, and maybe the weekends, too, for all I know. Somehow I feel like I know these guys, like they’re a cross between my late Grandpa hanging out with his pals and some stereotypical old-school barber shop scene from the movies, where people chat about the weather and their latest ailments and what they did that weekend and the price of crops, or whatever wholesome older men talk about whenever they’re standing around killing time.
All this reminds me quite a lot of the passage in the Gospel of John, when Jesus is calling his first disciples. When Philip was asked to follow, he went to Nathanael, excited to tell him they had found Jesus, the very person Moses and the prophets had written about, and he was a guy from a nearby town called Nazareth.
“‘Nazareth!’ exclaimed Nathanael. ‘Can anything good come from Nazareth?’
‘Come and see for yourself,’ Philip replied” (John 1:46).
Nathanael did come and see, and he found the Son of God in an unexpected package. Back then, Nazareth had a bad reputation. Perhaps it was much like the rundown neighborhood I drive through each morning, or some bland, time-warp town in the middle of nowhere. Nothing good came from Nazareth, or so he thought.
Yet he found the Messiah. And he, too, followed—just like his friends did.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the good when it’s not so obvious. We don’t see the gold because of all the dirt and mud. We don’t see kindness because it’s surrounded by excess. Maybe we judge a person as worthless because they listen to music we despise or wear torn, worn out clothing.
But beneath the surface, behind our expectations, maybe—if we look a little closer, a little deeper—we could find a miracle.