Friday, May 27, 2011

Two Ceremonies

The contrast was striking.  Early last week I attended an awards ceremony at Timothy Christian Schools where step-son John is a senior. Later in the  week there was an awards ceremony at Breakthrough Urban Ministries on the west side of Chicago. Both were great experiences and life-giving but each evoked different emotions.

At Timothy Christian there was a quiet assurance that expectations had been met. Smart kids from good families got what they had worked hard for.  It was a job well done.  The ceremony was heart warming and it honored students who had studied hard and achieved much.  I experienced a deep sense of gratefulness for the school, its teachers and its commitment to its mission.

At Breakthrough students were also honored for hard work and measurable accomplishment. It was clear that quiet assurance was being built and that an environment of expectation and accomplishment wasn't yet the norm.  “Yet” is the operative word. Slowly but surely neighborhood norms are changing but the tipping point has not yet been reached. But that day will come. It must.

When I watched the young students at Breakthrough I was both thrilled for them and sobered by what I know about their statistical probability of success. Whenever I drive through the neighborhood I see what's waiting for kids if expectations and accountability are low.  It's not pretty and in all honesty it's scary.  If Breakthrough doesn’t succeed these kids are sizzled. They won't make it in life. They might not make it out of adolescence. 

If Timothy Christian fails in its mission the students at their school will still succeed. There's enough parental resolve and access to excellent resources to almost guarantee success.  That access, that resolve and those resources are in shorter supply in many city neighborhoods. Ministries, like Breakthrough, stand in the gap along with local churches, caring families, sports leagues, and dedicated teachers, battling for kids, their families and the neighborhood.  But make no mistake. There is a gap and there is a battle.

Two ceremonies.  Two life giving ministries.  I thank God for Timothy Christian Schools. Bravo. Thank God it is succeeding in the mission God has ordained for them. 

Thank God for Breakthrough.  May success become the norm for the kids and families it serves.  May resources flow to it. May the exuberant celebration of hope I witnessed the other night be parlayed into life-long habits leading to mature faith and citizenship. 

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