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Community of Faith - Bar community taught daughter a culture of caring

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A number of years ago my youngest daughter took a job as a waitress in a local sports bar in the Midwestern city she was living in at the time. Her mother and I were not excited about that choice. The bar was in a part of town that was described as "run-down," but our daughter knew how to take care of herself. She had lived independently in Europe and Japan for a few years, so we didn't say much about her decision. After all, it was just for a short time until her graduate school program began in the fall.

Some very interesting things came from that job. She discovered something about "community" and she discovered it from the lifestyle of that bar.

There was a very strong and protective concern for her by the "regulars" of the bar, who frankly were often alcoholics and in some cases virtual street people. They expressed concern that a nice girl like her shouldn't be in a place like "this." They were surprised to learn she had advanced degrees, spoke several languages and was preparing to go on to a prominent university for her doctoral work.

Several of them tried to find her a better job even though they were not employed themselves. They really tried to help her and they admitted her, almost as a daughter, to their circle of habitual drinking buddies. But they protected her from the alcohol culture of heavy drinkers and kept her from joining their lifestyle. They escorted her to her car many nights to make sure she was safe. They took very good care of her.

Our daughter discovered a subculture in that bar which she and we were surprised by. She found a community with a highly developed culture of care that showed real compassion for a sojourner and stranger in their midst. And a subculture that longed to talk to and be present with one another. Now of course there were negative elements as well. There were fights and violence and the reality of persons who became chronically ill from the excesses of a heavy drinking culture. But there was real compassion for an outsider, too.

This Sunday, Holy Week begins. It is a time to remember and celebrate how God sought out humanity and brought care, compassion and protection for all creation in the context of violence, oppression and death. In that context of death and loss God gave us a model of life in Christ to show how to live lives of compassion and concern.

Our daughter had an Easter experience where we never expected it to happen. But God uses the unexpected all the time. We have the life of Christ to model as the way to bring Easter life to the world.

May the gift of Easter fill your lives and our community with Christ's love.

Mitch Jones is pastor at Atonement Lutheran Church, 2205 34th St. S.W. Reach him at 549-7792 or at pr_mitch@atonemsla.org.

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