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Bell-bottoms, bicycles, and better days

Posted: Monday, August 8, 2016 | Alphonso Ashworth | Pop Culture

Once upon time, in a small, tight-knit community far, far away lived a little boy. This precocious lad peered at the world around him and often daydreamed. Unlike some children, he had an adventurous nature. He asked more questions than there seemed to be answers for. Then after a massive stroke, his mother was left lame and could no longer give him the things that other children had. But with the love and strength provided by his grandmother, the little boy soon found hope in what would become a promise for better days.

One day, someone from the government visited and told his family of a place far from the small, rickety house they called home. The floors, walls, and windows provided little protection from the outside elements. The old, pot-belly stove, which the little boy described as a fire-breathing dragon, was the center of every family gathering and served as a means for heating their cold bones as well as for cooking their meals.

The government official painted a vivid mental picture of this new place. The boy imagined a land of milk and honey, a place with lush, green grass and blue skies. In reality, it was the "projects," or the official name, government housing. And like a small band of gypsies, the grandmother took her family and entered this new promised land.

The new home wowed the boy. He thought they had struck it rich. No more cold air coming through cracks. Hot water flowed from every tap, and wall heaters were only a few feet apart. The floors were solid, and his grandmother could hang her treasured photographs on the walls. No place on earth could have been better for this little boy.

Along with the new home came a brand new school, paved roads for the long, yellow carriages called school buses to escort the little boy and safely return him home. But as always, that which glitters is not always gold.

Whispers began to go throughout the land that the projects were only a temporary place and that its inhabitants should not get too comfortable there. The little boy was confused. Why would the government give him such a nice place to stay only to take it away?

Years passed...

The little boy grew into bell-bottoms, and there were bicycles for every little boy and girl. Each yard had one, so it seemed. Still, the whispers grew louder, and the rumors became reality. The boy noticed some of the children he grew up with were no longer in the projects. And as a teenager, he began asking questions: "Where did Mr. and Mrs. Jones go?” And, “Why?” Even the bell-bottoms and bicycles slowly vanished. But not after a few scrapes. Bell-bottoms and bicycle chains don't play well together.

One day, the young man’s grandmother noticed how sad he had become. Restlessness and anger had replaced his adventures. The daydreams were now daymares. The time had come for his grandmother to explain why he would someday have to leave and never, ever return to live here. She explained how his ancestors had been captured and brought to this country and how they worked and toiled to make a better way for their children. The young man seemed to understand, but he was gripped with fear. As always, the grandmother had an answer: “But God.”

She explained how we are only travelers in a strange land, and as well-meaning as the government may be, they are not the final arbiters in our destinies. She could not read or write, but she had faith in God. So she had the grandson read a passage from the book of Hebrews:

"By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise." –Hebrews 11:9

More years passed. The boy grew into a man. Despite his successes and failures, he remembered the day he left the projects behind. He remained steadfast, relying on the words from his grandmother, and to this day, he is thankful for the safety the projects provided her. She was a sojourner in this world until her faith in Jesus Christ, who with his blood purchased her a permanent home -- Heaven.