Recapturing a Season of Peace
Baltimore, MD. April 2015.
“Anyone who turned on the news saw riots, fires, looting, angry youth, battered cars with windows smashed in. Here's what you didn't see. And here's what you didn't hear about. The 500 pastors who met to pray together with other community leaders. The men, women, and youth (many of whom were involved in gangs and all of whom belonged to different races and religions) who chose to stand between the rioters and the police and chose to be a human wall of peace. The same men, women and youth who chose to clean up the city they love...who followed rioters and swept up glass, metal, and more throughout the night. The various restaurants that opened their doors to police, National Guard, and firemen for FREE meals. There is still good in this world. And there is still good in this city.”
Nyack College alumna Helena Poston Hewlett (’04) lamented the calamity that brewed in Baltimore, MD this past spring. She described the aftermath of the death of a young African American man following his arrest. With jury selection in progress for the case against six black and white police officers involved in the incident, Baltimore is back in the news.
Helena Hewlett believed then, as she believes now, that there is still good in the city of Baltimore. In fact, though she would never admit it, she is a part of the good. Hers is an untold story about a bit of “Christmas in July” she gave to a young group of complete strangers—all African American boys and girls as young as five and a few in high school. What does one person—a young Caucasian wife and mother—do to make a difference in her inner city neighborhood when such a volatile climate exists?
She shares, “I began to notice neighborhood kids walking up and down our street with a basketball. I was always friendly and would say "Hi," but one day I finally asked if there was a court where they played or if they had a hoop at home. (No, they didn't.) I promised them I'd find one, and I did on a local free site!
“My husband, Mathew, picked it up in his truck. The boys were so excited the first day they saw it, and they even helped him put it up. As word spread about the hoop, various people in our neighborhood would anonymously drop off basketballs at our house, sometimes leaving them on the front or back porch with notes saying, "Thank you for what you're doing for our kids."
What they received was much more than a basketball “court” thanks to the Hewletts. True to her humble nature, Helena didn’t want her goodwill to be misunderstood as a benevolent white woman’s charity case. The important thing was she made a genuine connection that endeared her to these youth.
“I really enjoyed becoming “Momma H,” she says. She described on her Facebook wall, “My new ‘babies’ showed up again and they were here for four hours. They fed the chickens, collected eggs, watered all the plants, went on a little nature hunt around the yard with me, and learned new things about trees. We even found a bird nest.”
“As a parent, I would absolutely not want my children going into someone's house if I had not met them. So I sent each of them home with my phone number for their parents to call or come over.” The Hewlett home became a virtual community center. Soon things got even sweeter for this brood of new friends. They got to enjoy the legendary baking of “Momma H,” including a surprise 12th birthday cake shaped like a basketball.
“Each of these children has found their way into my heart and has a special place where they will always remain. It is my hope that I can enrich their lives in any way possible, and that the Lord will use me as He would see fit, meeting these children's needs and loving them in ways they may not even know they need.”
A group of neighborhood kids found out what happens when the good in the city shows up. Helena Poston Hewlett showed up and, with the love of Christ, offered a season of peace.
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