You never know how valuable a ride home can be.  Jennifer and I always made ourselves available to the Viking Band members if they needed a ride home.  After practice.  After a football or basketball game.  After a weekend band competition.  After one of the many fundraising events.  For seven years it was just one facet of our ‘band ministry’ as we tried to help North increase its culture of confidence across academics, sports, drama, music and special programs (like ROTC, MaPS Credit Union, Wood Shop, Health Academy, etc.)  There were great strides, not the least of which was our Marching Band going from 60 marchers to 100-plus, and from zero color-guard performers to 22.  Not to mention Top-10 finishes in the state competitions for Jazz and Wind Ensemble.

But we weren’t in it for the trophies … we were in for the kids.  Samuel and Andrew, of course, but not just our own sons. For all the kids.  Giving rides home was just one of the ways we were able to contribute.

He was a quiet kid.  Played the saxophone.  We’d known him by face since the Jazz-Band days at Parrish Middle School, but it was in high school that we built a relationship with Roberto and his family through the seemingly insignificant act of giving that ride home.  We learned that Roberto’s mom is hard-working, but doesn’t drive.  They lived on the outer rim of North’s catchment boundary, east of I-5 near Lancaster Mall.  Not a fun walk from school.  So once we got the approvals in place, we were Roberto’s regular ride home after most band activities.   We got to know Roberto well, along with his mom and sister.  Roberto had big dreams for attending college, and Band was the center-of-gravity that kept him connected to classes and academics.  If his dream came true, he would be the first in his family to attend college.  We fanned the flame, especially Jennifer, who would ask Roberto about his academic interests, his grades, whether he’d signed up for the PSAT and SATs, filled out his FAFSA, etc.  Often the ride home would include encouraging words to a young man with tons of  heart and potential, but no automatic track to success.

How sweet it was to learn the Roberto had scholarship offers from several schools, including Warner Pacific in Portland.  During a time of prayer with pastors in the McKay/NE area (one of several prayer clusters across the city), I told the group about Roberto.  A pastor-friend said “Hey, I’m a Warner Pacific alum, I’ll put in a good word for him.”  Long story short, I got to give Roberto one more ride.  It was for his first day of school at Warner Pacific last September.  Mom and Sis joined us, and we had a great time walking the campus, meeting his counselor and professors, and watching him audition for a music scholarship on top of the ones he’d already earned.  Roberto is studying to be a music teacher and plans to come back to Salem-Keizer to serve.  Go Vikings!  Go Roberto!  Thank you Lord.