After living in New Albany for a year, Rachel and I broke our lease and moved into an apartment in the middle of Midtown, across the street from the elementary school. Our new landlord allowed pets and we soon rescued a retired greyhound. We named our black and white giant Banksy, after the artist. We made it a point to walk Banksy around the neighborhood every day.
And every day we met new people.
Neighbors approached us and asked if they could pet our dog. Some afternoons, when kids swarmed the playground, we’d walk Banksy and the mob of children would rush over to pet him. Banksy would lean on tiny children, nearly knocking them over.
One night I walked Banksy around the perimeter of the park and a scary figure of a man approached us from the shadows. His pants sagged low, revealing his underwear. He didn’t have on a shirt but wore a large gold chain around his neck. He nodded his head at Banksy and me.
“Yo man,” he said. “Can I pet your dog?”
“Sure,” I replied.
The man ominously walked over to us. He crouched down low and looked Banksy right in the eyes. Then, scratching Banksy’s head, the man said, “Boo boo boo, hewwo wittle guy. You’re a sweet wittle boy, you sure are.” Then the man stood up, patted Banksy’s side and said, “Thanks man,” and walked back into the shadows.
People are scared of bad neighborhoods. And often for good reasons.
But Jesus called his followers to engage darkness with the light of the gospel. When we flee the darkness, the darkness doesn’t just disappear. In fact, it gets darker.
Sometimes ominous figures emerge from the shadows and cause harm. They commit acts of violence, theft, or other abuses. This is a reality and it happens all the time.
But on occasion, the shadowy figures walk up to strangers, pet their dogs and talk baby talk.
Often, people meet Banksy and ask if he’s a rescue. When we tell them his story they say “good for you.” It’s funny because Rachel and I weren’t trying to perform a good deed or anything, we just wanted a dog and we like greyhounds.
I didn’t realize the bridge Banksy would build between us and our neighbors. We have probably met over a hundred neighbors because of our dog. It’s amazing.
And, again, we just wanted a dog. This bridge to the neighborhood thing was a total accident.
But we learned that people living in darkness are drawn to the light. And God’s creation shines in a goofy dog like Banksy.
So people pull their cars over, roll down their windows, and yell at us to ask, “Do you mind if I get out and give your dog a rub?”
We always say yes.
And we’ve made a ton of new friends this way.