Day 51: Matthew 6:28-30

And why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow: they do not work or make clothes for themselves. But I tell you that not even King Solomon with all his wealth had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers. It is God who clothes the wild grass—grass that is here today and gone tomorrow, burned up in the oven. Won’t he be all the more sure to clothe you? What little faith you have!

[This is a continuation of Jesus’ teaching about materialism and worrying.  He is explaining to his disciples how they can bemore faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires.” (See Day 23)].

So this is the second reference Jesus has made about how inappropriate it is to worry about clothing.  From the perspective of age it does indeed seem like kind of a silly thing to worry about, but when I was younger clothes seemed to be pretty important.

When I was in school I felt I had to have nice clothes to fit in with the other kids.  In college, I got rid of all those clothes because I dressed like a hippie.  When I began working they told me my clothes weren’t good enough, so I had to invest in expensive clothes that were deemed “appropriate.”  Now I’m retired and I don’t buy many clothes.  Those I have are on the fun side.

I certainly don’t worry about clothes anymore.  I’m certain that if all of my clothes disappeared, my friends would be pretty quick to cover me up.  You can absolutely count on that when you’re my age.  (Joke).

When I think of clothes and worrying my thoughts turn to Little Melvin.  Not so much clothes as shoes.

I wrote about the Davis family on Day 33, in case you want a little background.  Anyway, when Little Melvin was born, his mom asked me to be his godmother.  I didn’t really know what that meant, but I tried to do what I could.  I talked to him a lot about his spiritual life and tried to encourage him to do good things with his life.  I also bought him Christmas presents, spent time with him at our house and his, baked birthday cakes for him, and took him shopping for back-to-school clothes.

It was easy shopping for clothes with Melvin.  I would take him to a store, he would run in, grab a bunch of things, try them on, and we’d be out of there in no time at all. Easy-peasy.   But shoes were another matter entirely.

From the time he was a tiny little boy, when he was maybe 2 years old, we would take him to Payless. He was always mesmerized.  Sometimes he would point at shoes and want to hold them.  He loved to put them on his tiny feet. If he pointed at a pair of shoes but they weren’t in his size, there was trouble.  He would cry.  This was all before he was even doing much talking.

Of course kids nowadays are shoe crazy.  It was even worse 10 or 15 years ago.  And Melvin was the worst of all.  He was a modest, reasonable kid, so he wasn’t the kind who wanted hundreds of pairs.  But he wanted the best.

This made back to school shopping every year an adventure.  We would always try the department stores first.  He would glance through the shoes and say no.  Then we would go to the sports shoe places, where he would spend a little more time but never find anything he wanted.  No, the only shoes that would satisfy Little Melvin were never available in those places.  To get the really hot shoes you had to risk your life.  You had to go to the “bad” neighborhood.

And so that’s what we would do.  We would go to that special store that he loved, where scary-looking men hung out in small groups on the streets and incoherent, unshaven old guys sat around on the sidewalks mumbling.  We would drive around for a half an hour looking for a parking place near the store, eventually give up, park wherever we could, and “pray walk” our way to that special place where we could get the right shoes.

The store was owned and managed by Asian guys.  They would stand behind the counter on a platform that made them look like they were about 8 feet tall. There would also be several big black bodyguards standing around to “keep it real”.  I’m sure there were lots of guns in there.  We tried not to think about it.  Melvin certainly didn’t care; he was focused on all the great shoes.  Usually after about an hour he would narrow it down to 2-3 pairs that he wanted to try on.  But sometimes, and only sometimes, one of the Asian guys would recognize Melvin’s true passion for footwear and call him aside.  He would reach down under the counter and bring out the “Just in… super hot… you try…”  shoes.  To me, they all look alike.  To Melvin, they are works of art.  So we would usually leave the store with the “just in” shoes and Melvin would reward us with a huge grin and a big hug.

I love that kid.  I must admit that while I don’t worry about clothes I worry about Little Melvin.  If you have any idea what life is like in Chicago you worry about every young black man trying to live out his life and reach old age.

When the Trayvon Martin thing happened there was a picture of him in a hoodie freaked me out every time it came up on the television. Trayvon reminded me so much of Melvin.

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Little Melvin is someone you should know.  He is kind, respectful, quiet, funny, talented, and sweet.  He always has nice friends, no gang bangers.  He loves music and sports.  I knew him before he was born and he grew up into a handsome young man right before my eyes.  We spent a lot of time praying and singing together.  I think he still works at the Armory, the neighborhood community center where kids come to play sports and keep out of trouble.  He wants to marry a nice girl and have kids.  I don’t see him very often now that I live in the suburbs, but there will always be a strong bond between us.  At least we can keep in touch on Facebook.

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It’s a special challenge for young men like Melvin to stay alive.  Between the gangs, the Chicago police, and the racial profilers he faces constant peril. He spends a lot of time looking over his shoulder, trying to keep a low profile.  He worries about his friends who are still alive and mourns for those who have been killed.  And he worries about whether or not he will be able to avoid the next “incident.”

No, I don’t worry much about clothes and neither should you.  I do worry about Little Melvin.  I have a request for all of you – please pray for his safety.  And I have another request as well – if you see Little Melvin or someone like him running through your back yard some evening, please don’t shoot him.  He’s probably just running away from someone with a gun or a baseball bat.  Please don’t shoot him. Please.

What does this scripture say to you?

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