But I live in North Minneapolis. We're not known for our beauty. When the rest of the Twin Cities metro area thinks of North Minneapolis, they associate it with violence, crime, murder, poverty. We're "the hood." And yes, an occasional murder does happen here--just like they happen in other parts of the metro.
We may have more of a history in this area since this part of the city was originally designed to keep the "undesirables" out of the nicer parts of the city. But we also have the tenacity and hope to rise above how others view us.
When you take the time to go slowly, to bike or walk, through a neighborhood, you can see the beauty in it. There are little architectural details on many of the homes that you don't see if you're driving by. There is stonework and masonry, woodwork and ornamental details that are easy to miss.
You also miss out on the people who live there. The hope they have. Their dreams. The fact that God loves them, that Christ died for them. It's easy to miss all that through the stereotypes of people in "the hood." The baggy pants, drooping so their boxers show way too much. The drug dealer. The welfare mom.
Those people exist. But they also have potential. They, too, can be redeemed and sanctified. Like many of the old houses that have taken work and effort to turn them around and maintain their beauty, a little attention and work can do the same for the people in the same neighborhoods. Yes, they need Jesus. They also need us--not to come be their savior, but to be an empathetic friend who can understand how hard it is to turn our right when your mom was a teenager who tried to raise you by herself without anyone to raise her. They need us to be a role model for their kids when their father hasn't been in their lives at all. They need us to give them a chance and look beyond the stereotypes and prejudices. They need us to not look at them as "theys" and "thems" but as people created in God's image with a soul that longs to be made whole.
We just need to bike down the side roads and pay attention to the details and the beauty therein.