Still, sometimes it's rough in the hood. Tonight as I was biking home from church, some teenage boys threw a rock or two at me as I was going past the corner they were hanging out on. Beth's bike was stolen out of our garage shortly after we moved in. I dislike having to make sure every door is locked. I don't like not being able to have the windows open at night because of the noise. I wish we didn't have to deal with some of the seedy tenets in rental houses near us.
I don't like cleaning up the constant stream of litter and broken glass on the sidewalks and in our yard. I get tired of having to teach our neighbor kids boundaries at our house. I wish it wasn't uncomfortable being the only white guy in the neighborhood at times. And I probably miss out on some of the bad things that go on because I'm a bit naive in some of those areas.
Yet, it is a good place to live. We've got several nice parks close by--including wading pools, a splash pad and a water park if we so choose to buy the pass some day. We're near a couple nice bike trails through parks and along the Mississippi. We've got a nice library a few blocks away where some of the staff know us by name. There are a lot of fun and free activities around. We've got a great school just a couple blocks from our house. And we have some good neighbors.
I know that I probably won't be able to live in the city forever. I yearn for the country at times. But we're here for a few years. Beth is starting her grad school program in the fall. And we've got some loans that we don't have to pay off if we're in our home for at least five years.
We moved here intentionally. There were other areas we could have looked to live. But we wanted to be a part of bringing life into hurting neighborhoods. One of our friends were told when they moved into North Minneapolis years ago with their young kids that what they were doing was child abuse. There are times when we would feel the same with raising kids with suburban values.
If everyone runs when a neighborhood is "bad," you will end up with bad neighborhoods. And those "bad" values will keep creeping into the "good" neighborhoods, and people will move and the cycle will continue. At some point we need to be neighbors and help each other and look out for each other. We need to invest in the kids who have no one in their lives except other kids without people to give them the attention they need. We need more people like our neighbor James who goes up and down the block with his broom and dust pan. We need to work at bridging the gaps between the Hmong family and the Somali family and the African American family and the Euro-American family. We need to learn from one another. And care for each other and look out for one another.
And so we'll be in our house for a while longer (though I still have this vision for a church and community on a farm out in the country that I hope to bring to fruition one day). We still getting to know our neighbors (there are some language barriers with several houses--not to mention all the homes that are empty right now). But the people in the the side of the duplex closest to us told me recently they're still in the place because we're next door. Honestly, I don't know them that well, but we talk and help out when we can. I'm glad we can be an influence in our neighbor boys' lives (even though it gets tiring at times) because I don't think they have a lot of male adults who give them consistent attention otherwise. I'm thankful for all the people and organizations who are working to help get people back on their feet and give them respect and hope.
My wife has printed on a curtain by our door this prayer which I hope we may always live by:
Dear Lord,Swing the doors of our hope wide so all people will feel welcome and loved. May the floor and the walls be strong enough to carry the burdens of those who come. We pray no one leaves feeling less than when they entered. May your love and peace cover and protect as each one departs. Amen.