Mark Miller Story
My name is Mark and I have worked with Bali for about a year and a half. Bali is one of the coolest kids I’ve ever met. He’s ten years old and thin as a rail. He is full of energy and joy that is infectious. He carries a soccer ball with him everywhere he goes. He’s a good kid. And his life is the stuff of boyhood dreams: biking down to the creek with his brother, playing soccer in the street with his closest mates, skinning knees, smiling and laughing nearly all the time, and of course playing marbles (something I still find a bit puzzling). He lives in a tiny apartment with four adults and three other kids. I imagine the money is tight, but you’d never know it.
Bali makes me nostalgic for my own childhood. When you’re a kid everything is okay. You don’t even think about the fact of whether or not you will be taken care of – you just know you will be. You trust your parents and trust that all shall be well without really knowing or thinking otherwise. At least once every time I’m with Bali I think of Christ’s words to his disciples when they thought of kids as simply an annoyance to our savior – nothing to offer: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Remarkable. The kingdom of heaven belongs to children. It belongs to those who simply know that their Father is going to take care of them. It belongs to people who have the unbridled joy and a zest for life and the innocence of a child.
Recently I got to hang out with Bali at a small community water park. There was one water feature there that simply shot water out of the ground continuously about three feet high. Nothing extraordinary by any means. I watched from a short distance as Bali played with this thing for fifteen minutes straight. I was amazed. The amount of joy something so small and simple brought him moved me. I want to be more like that.
I am helping Bali learn how to read and he is learning and that’s brilliant and rewarding and really a ton of fun. But more than that, Bali is teaching me, and we are just friends. I remember one Wednesday night recently I was going to Reading Circle with a terrible attitude. I was stressed from a long day at work and from other anxieties that seemed like a big deal in my life at the time. I got there and saw Bali and some of his friends playing soccer. I joined them – buttondown shirt, khaki pants, boots and all. (It was also boiling lava hot outside.) Maybe two minutes went by before I was laughing and had forgotten what seemed like such a big deal just a few minutes before.
I think Christ’s words – again to his disciples – are the most profound maybe in all of scripture: “Whoever loses their life for me will save it.” In other words: “You want real life? You want real, lasting joy? You want to get rid of your anxiety? Forget about yourself. Give your life away. Only then will you really find it. It’s the only way.” Working with Bali makes me lose my life. It reminds me to have childlike faith. It reminds me to have fun and to know that at the end of the day, all shall be well. And it reminds me how much fun it is to learn about Jesus and to learn how to read – something we’re doing together.
(With a whole lot of soccer in between.)