So there's this boy. Philip. Or maybe it's Fillip since he's German. I don't know.
We are going to go with Philip, because Fillip just looks weird to me and I am used to typing Philip so I feel like my natural instinct will to start to type Ph and then I'll just have to hit backspace all the time and retype it and well, you get the idea. Philip it is.
Philip is, oh, by my rough guess, somewhere between 9 and 11 years old. And he loves KSC Football. I mean loves. LOOOOOOVES it.
Philip is often at training, waiting for players, asking for autographs. He has asked Luis for a pair of gloves, which Luis gladly gave him.
Philip also just so happens to live in our village. We learned this one day when he saw Luis walking into the house after training.
I actually didn't know about Philip until one day, while I was doing my housewifey thing and the door bell rang. I hit the intercom button and said "Hallo?"
Actually I said sort of a mixture really of "hello" and "hallo" because I feel weird answering "hallo" if it might be someone I know, someone who would most definitely know that I am a "hello" kinda girl, but I also don't want to give off that I am a foreigner if it's someone I don't know. So I try to make it sound like they might not have heard me correctly whether they were listening for a "hello" or a "hallo." I'm sure I probably just sound ridiculous either way. Oh the complications of my life. haha
Anyway, Philip said something and I didn't understand, but I could tell it was a kid, so I buzzed him in and he came running up the stairs huffing and puffing and frantically asked (in German of course, but I'll spare you the extra time of reading the German and then the translation) "Is Herr Robles home? When is training today?!?!? I don't see it on the website!!!"
Poor kid was gonna have a panic attack if he missed training that day. I explained to him that training wasn't on the website because the trainer had announced a surprise (and much needed) training camp that particular week and so the team was off and away in some other part of the country. He walked away looking a little bummed. Or maybe he was just confused by my funny sounding German. I don't know.
I'm typically not bothered by kids coming over because for the most part they're really sweet and I feel that they probably don't understand why one would normally not ring the doorbell of a professional athlete like they would any friend. And, in our experience, after a few visits, the parents realize what's going in and put an end to it.
They're kids. We get that. They don't always understand the boundaries, but we would rather open ourselves up than crush their spirits, and so I feel like, overall, we tend to be a little more lenient with boundaries because of that sensitivity.
That being said, there still has to be boundaries, right? This is something I really struggle with because on one hand, I understand that the Lord has put us in this position just as he puts any missionary in the fields of Africa or the packed cities of India or the poverty stricken communities of South America. And so we are to use our gifts and resources to stand out, to be different, to show his love to people. But, just how far do we go with that?
A few weeks after my first encounter with Philip, Luis and I were pulling into the driveway, and Philip, who was playing outside at the same time, came up to our car to ask if Luis could go play Fußball with him.
Having just come from training and being dog tired, and also a little weary of Philip's never ending requests, Luis politely declined.
And this is when Luis and I connected our experiences with Philip, as I said, hey that kid came by one day asking about training and Luis relayed to me all his experiences with Philip.
I understood where Luis was coming from, but part of me still couldn't help but feel bad for the kid, who I know would have been on Cloud 9 for the next 5 years for the chance to kick the ball around with Luis.
But where do you draw the line?
Yesterday, The bell rang, and I hit the intercom and did my little half "hello" half "hallo" thing, and then a little voice came on and I didn't understand who it was or what he said so I buzzed him in, and Luis said, "It sounds like that kid."
Now sometimes our door, when I hit the buzzer, doesn't open on the first try. So I noticed that whoever I had buzzed in, hadn't come up to our level yet, so I opened our door and could see little Philip standing outside looking up to our floor.
So I went downstairs and opened the main door and he asked if he could come in, so I let him into the stairwell. He then proceeded to show me his calculator and said something that I didn't quite understand so I asked him to repeat it and I still didn't understand so I finally just asked him "So what would you like from us?"
To which he said, "Can you help me with my homework?"
Your homework?!?!? I kind of laughed because I just imagined, me and my childlike German trying to tutor this kid, and then I said, "I'm sorry but my German just isn't that good."
And then I clarified that he needed help with math just to make sure, to which he said yes, to which I said "I'm really sorry, if it were in English I could help you, but I can't in German." The kid was crushed. And I felt bad because I hate saying no, and I always tend to think "oh no, what if this kid doesn't have any support at home and he just needs someone to reach out to him?!?!?"
But at the same time, I think, "Really, coming to our home to ask us to help you with your homework?" I think that's a line...maybe. I think.
And then I went upstairs and told the story to Luis and then I started thinking, well maybe I could help him (sometimes I lose perspective on boundaries myself!) and so I thought, okay,
"Zwei plus Zwei..."
And then I realized I didn't even know the word for "equals" and I knew that I had done the right thing. But had I known the word for "equals" and had I had some kind of basic knowledge of mathematical terms in German, should I have helped him?
Just where are the boundaries? What makes us respond to a random Facebook message from an American soldier, stationed at Ramstein who wants to do something special for her husband's (also a soldier) birthday because the last two years they have been apart from each other on his birthday. One year she was deployed to Iraq, and the next year he was.
What makes us want to give everything we can to these people (Hi Rick and Heather!) when all they are asking is for something for small, and yet, not help a kid with his math homework? Was it because they were American? Perhaps that helped. And certainly there was an added sensitivity on our part because of their willingness to serve and defend our country (thank you to all you soldiers!).
But also, the message was just so genuine and honest, we couldn't help but feel how special she wanted to make that year for her husband and so we caught the fever and did everything we could to help.
Perhaps that was a very special case, a God-ordained thing, as we have since developed a friendship with them through that experience, and one we are really grateful for. But what about all the other requests? What about the kid wanting to play soccer or wanting help with his homework?
Okay, the homework was an extreme case. But it's a good example of why I struggle with knowing just where those boundaries are between protecting my husband and helping him keep some kind of normalcy to his life, but at the same time, understanding the role the Lord has put us in and how we can encourage people through that.
I don't think there's any easy answers, and I worry, as Luis' career continues, it's only going to get more grey. But I just pray that, no matter what the experience, whether we can make someone's day or we have to gently say no, I pray that we can always be gracious and kind and that they will, hopefully, in turn understand that we aren't being mean, we just can't say yes to everyone. As much as I would really, really like to make everyone's day, it's just not realistic.
And that's a hard thing for me to learn. Because I love people. And I love to try and make their day. Oh Lord help me! :)