Yet again I find myself inspired by Bart Campolo’s simple, yet profound way of embodying the kingdom of God in and through community-living. Below is his latest newsletter from the Walnut Hills Fellowship:
The other day a bunch of people e-mailed me the same New York Times column, which cited a variety of scientific research suggesting that what we think of as intelligence is quite malleable in children and owes little or nothing to genetics. What stuck out to me was one study which found that a child of professionals (disproportionately white) has heard about 30 million words spoken by age 3, while a black child raised on welfare has heard only 10 million words. No wonder low-income children often show brain physiologies similar to adults who have suffered damage in the parts of the brain most critical for problem-solving and creativity. In too many cases, their young minds are literally starving for stimulation. Now here is the good news: According to the scientists, it doesn’t have to be that way. If we nurture kids the right way, we can actually make them smart.
What does that have to do with The Walnut Hills Fellowship? Well, since practically everything we do around here is about trying to nurture our kids – and our grown-ups – the right way, it has everything to do with us, especially during the summer, when this little group of intentional good neighbors shifts into high gear.
The action begins as soon as school lets out, when we start shuttling kids to the various summer camps we’ve signed them up for all over town. We might have started a camp of our own if we didn’t have jobs, but in many ways this is much better. The kids get exposed to lots of new places and people and perspectives, and somebody besides us gets to feed and teach and play with and – best of all – discipline them. What we get to do is actively process their experiences in the car on the way home, like a bunch of hyper-interested aunts and uncles. In other words, lots of words.
We still eat dinner together every Monday night, of course, but during the summer we stretch things out. We sit at the table longer, everyone talking about our weeks. We play more games. Nobody hurries home after we’ve done the dishes and put away the tables and chairs. Sometimes, when the weather is nice, we load up and go to the park for a picnic, like one big happy family. And through it all, especially for the little ones, there are lots of words.
Of course, after last year’s epic family vacation to Chicago, everybody has been hoping and praying (and asking and asking) about whether or not we’ll be able to do it again in July. The final answer was given last night, thanks to the generosity of many of you: We’re totally going back to Chicago! We all know what that means (besides a ridiculous amount of planning and preparation for Marty and Karen): Long van rides. Major sightseeing. An afternoon on the beach. A big-time African-American church service. Deep dish pizza. And all along the way, more words.
I haven’t yet mentioned the various housing projects our property guru, Mark, has lined up this summer, maybe because I am trying to pretend we haven’t bitten off more than we can chew in terms of time and money and sweat and (if my past experience in reconstruction is any indication) blood. One way or another, however, I know they’ll get done, if for no other reason than that none of us want to face the wrath of Miss Ella, who is eagerly waiting for us to move her into her new place, which just happens to be right across the street from mine. If you saw where she was coming from, you’d understand her impatience. Mark has a new place for his family, too, and we can’t wait for them to be here with us. After all, besides being our friends, both Mark and his wife Anne are big talkers, and our kids need all the words they can get.
You, on the other hand, must have had more than enough by now. Forgive me for being so newsy this month, but I figured you ought to know that everything in Walnut Hills isn’t dark and heavy all the time. On the contrary, we have plenty of happiness running around us here, in the form of the little people we adore and the big people we enjoy and the ceaseless Grace that holds us all together, even when things get tough. And we have you, to remind us that we are never alone, and never unloved. Whether or not such nurture makes us smarter, it surely makes us better. Month-in and month-out, thank you for that.
Keep the faith,
It is my most heartfelt desire that I will indeed keep- and be kept by- such a faith. God, please make it so.