Thursday, October 29, 2009

Who's House? God's House (Bristol & Blountville)

Me, Jean & Eldon Lufi on Friday morning in Blountville

Joel, Anna, Leah, Dwight (Kirk) & Me on Wednesday night in Bristol

Leah Kirk picked me up on Wednesday afternoon in downtown Bristol. I was on the north side of the street at Java J's coffee shop which meant I was still in Virginia. The Tennessee/Virginia line bisects the aptly named State Street. If I been so inclined it would have taken me all of 2.3 second to jog over to Tennessee and successfully step foot into the seventh state of my walk.

Instead I was driven across the state line. As Leah took me to her family's house between Bristol and Blountville she drove me past Tennessee High School, her alma mater. The most distinctive aspect of the school's architecture is the huge stone fortress which comprises their football stadium. It looks so medieval I looked to see if there was a moat surrounding it. Moat or no moat, it is one of the most intimidating high school stadiums I have ever seen. I'm not sure how much the fortress has to do with it but the Tennessee High Vikings are 10-0 this year.

There is another Vikings game this weekend that is garnering a bit of national attention. Something about a guy named Brett and some small town in Wisconsin named after a color. I can't keep it all straight. I've been to many, many sporting contests in my life - pro, college and high school - and I can honestly say the most memorable experiences I've had were cheering on a local high school team.

When I lived in Los Angeles with my friend Noah we attended a lot of Dorsey High School games. Noah taught history there and knew all of the kids and given that we lived less than a mile from the school I became just as passionate fan of Dorsey football and basketball as he was. I loved everything about those games. The teams were always good, the cheerleaders were inventive and gregarious and the crowds were totally invested in the game because the kids playing were their friends, kids, classmates, etc.

There was one cheer which was a staple of every home game. The cheerleaders would call out, "Who's House?" and the crowd would bellow back, "D-House!". It would be repeated four or five times and those of us in the stands would be standing, surging with the adrenaline of what was happening in the game. I enjoyed that cheer in the expanse of Jackie Robinson football stadium, but it was positively chill-inducing in the small confines of Dorsey's basketball gym. It is one of those gyms where if you are sitting in the front row your toes are literally touching the out of bounds line. It seemed to hold about 15 people comfortably and possibly 95 when all piled in on each other if rival Crenshaw High was visiting.

Dorsey's basketball beat down of Crenshaw at home in 2002 ranks at the top of my most enjoyable sports experiences ever. Jammed into that small fieldhouse, pushed up against my friends Noah, Wolf and Schneck, the game was a non-stop, up and down, over the rim extravaganza. Unfortunately it probably should have ranked #2. A few months earlier I faced a scheduling conflict. Either attend my company's Christmas Party or go watch Dorsey play Taft in the City Championship Football game at the LA Colesium. As I write those two options out now, I can't believe I chose to go to the Christmas Party. But I did.

The Christmas Party turned out to be, well, a Christmas Party. If you've been to one, you've been to them all. The City Championship game was one of a kind. The minute I walked back into my apartment that night and saw Noah and Schneck bouncing off the walls I knew my mistake. Dorsey had been trailing 14-13 with seconds left and Taft decided to punt on a fourth down near midfield. Dorsey blocked the punt, recovered the football and ran it in for the game winning touchdown as time expired. Noah, Schneck and all the Dorsey faithful (minus me of course) climbed out of the stands and rushed the field in a euphoric victory celebration. I have always wanted to rush the field! Alas, it was not meant to be.

By nature, sports are very territorial and adversarial. This is OUR house. We won. You lost. In a sports context, this can be fun. In the arena of human relationships and material possessions I find it to be rather off-putting.

Both the Kirks, who I stayed with on Wendesday, and Eldon and Jean Lufi, who I stayed with on Thursday, display a refreshing lack of any such traits. If I had started a cheer in either of their homes and called out "Who's House?" I am positively certain the answer back would have been "God's House." That is a beautiful thing.

Dwight and Kristie Kirk and Leah, Anna and Joel went out of their way to let me know that I should make myself completely at home, despite the fact that all they knew about me was the night before I had stayed with Leah's co-worker Debbie in Abingdon. Eldon and Jean, who I was connected with through their son Sam who I worked with at ABS, created the same welcoming atmosphere. They even left their front door unlocked for me on Thursday afternoon since I was arriving before they would be back from a church seminar. I was able to let myself in, take a shower and grab a snack as if it was my own home. Eldon said as much the following morning. They had to leave after we had breakfast but he assured me I could depart whenever I was ready. "This is your house," he said. A colorful dawn had just broken above the hills behind their house. The generosity of the Lufis and Kirks with their homes was something of equal beauty and I appreciated it even more than the sunrise because of the spirit in which it was offered.

I've given this a lot of thought as I've been walking because I want to be very intentional about the environment I create when I get an apartment in New York. I know that if I don't think of it as "my" apartment, or any possessions or money as "mine" in any absolute sense, I will be more compassionate and selfless with their use. It want to model in my life what has been modeled to me by the Kirks, the Lufis and every other person who has hosted me on this journey and made me feel as though what was theirs was mine.

I guess it boils down to a person's individual perspective on the source of what they have. If you choose to see God as the source - a God that is part of all of us and yet greater than all - then you will be a steward of your possessions with arms open wide instead of a fist clenched shut. Right now I get to be the receiver of such blessings. When I stop being a nomad I'll have a chance to give back what I have been given and hopefully even more. It will be my turn to say, "This is your house."


  1. I've met the Lufis and they're some of the finest people I ever known.

  2. My fiance used to work for Eldon and to this day he will tell anyone you will not find a finer man than Eldon Lufi.

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