Saturday, August 14, 2010

Multiplying Roving Listeners - Changing the Conversation

Well - something happened that surprised me a bit. Something that we started calling one of our folks -- "The Roving Listener" - became multiplied when we changed our summer activities in our neighborhood. Even though folks around Broadway didn't call the young people and parents who are talking to their neighbors "Roving Listeners" - other folks started doing it. Then last week the Indianapolis Star wrote an article about it that can be read here. We knew an article was coming out. But I didn't know that the writer was going to call the young people Roving Listeners. And then the very next day the editorial that the editorial staff provides every day mentioned "The Roving Listeners" again - you can read that here.

What was surprising to me a bit was that we had originally called "The Roving Listener" - the Animator of the Spirit. But since we have a group in the committee structure of Broadway called that - people found it confusing. So they asked us to change the name. We needed to come up with something in a hurry - so we just threw out the words "The Roving Listener." I have noticed that folks have eaten that up. They have loved the term. They have asked me about "how is the Roving Listener program going."

Actually we are all Roving Listeners. We wander around through our daily lives - having conversations with folks and hoping that something good arises out of the mix. I have heard some of our staff referring to the young people this summer as "Roving Disciples." I liked that as well. In part because it reminded me that Jesus and his band of 12, plus families and assorted hangers-on...seemed to be their own special gang of Roving Disciples. They certainly didn't seem to follow a straight line. They talked with people - tried to send 'em away - Jesus had 'em sit down and eat. Jesus got tired, they changed their plans and headed to the other side of the lake. And so it went. Roving.

I hope that what the title Roving Listeners or Roving Disciples does is help us see the ways in which we are already living out our calling - and just get us to pay a little closer attention to it. Because when we start paying attention to the Holy Conversations that God gives us (which is all of our conversations) then we start seeing God's grace at work in them in very practical ways.

A neighbor and friend, Orlando (seen above), stopped by Broadway and was chatting with another friend and me. At one point he was complaining about the ways in which music (and other arts, but particularly music) is being cut out of the curriculum of public schools as they face cutbacks. He was pretty exorcised about it.

Later I remembered that Orlando gives lessons on his porch to people who want to play the guitar. I was talking with Orlando a few weeks later and he told me that LaMarr (one of the Roving Disciples) had come by his house and had talked with him about their mutual love of music. LaMarr had started bringing his friends by to meet Orlando, because they all love music and love to sing together. Orlando mentioned that he is working on a disc of original compositions based on the Psalms and that he is intending to use LaMarr and his friends voices on the disc (all being made in his basement studio in our neighborhood).

I realized that if we can just shine a lot on what Orlando is doing (including helping Orlando see all the goodness coming out of himself) he will recognize that he is the answer to the issue that he is having in the schools. If he continues to do what he is doing and if others see it and recognize it as such (and he needs to be one of the folks who recognizes it) - then it can begin multiplying and before you know it (okay it will take awhile) - it will be overflowing in the streets so much that the schools won't be able to keep it out! That's at the heart of so many of Jesus' parables - about mustard seeds, and sowers, etc...

I think what I am most hopeful about when the newspaper mentions the work of these young people and what they are doing is that it will begin to change the conversation from one that is about what is wrong with us, to one about how we are overwhelmed completely and entirely by God's grace and the gifts that have been given each one of us.

May the conversation go on and the music continue to play!