...how much I love our neighbourhood?
I am in love with our front porch. I love sitting there and saying hi to neighbour Dave and neighbour Sue in their comings and goings. I love chatting with Barb and Arnie as they go on their daily walks, and thanking Arnie as he, once again, cuts four houses worth of front lawns, including ours. I love talking to the guy who slowly walks his Golden Retriever at least twice a day. And the man who always compares reno notes with Jeff. We don't know his name, but his dog goes by the name "Shadow." And the guy around the corner on Albert Street, who acts like the neighbourhood security guard, regularly patrolling the streets. He promises to give us his grandson's toys once he's done with them. Some days I even have a soft spot for Tony, who jealously eyes "his" parking spot on George Street, and who works on his Dodge Ram as though he owns a garage, when he doesn't even have a driveway.
In short, I love being a part of this community.
I also love that here on George Street, we are not insulated from the hurts of society. In addition to the above folks, I also say hello to the intimidating teens who live on the corner. I say hello to the young, pregnant moms who walk the streets with 7-11 Big Gulps in hand. I see the crackheads, whose screams sometimes wake us in the night. And I talk to the one who regularly asks me for spare change and for the time. I watch rather dishevelled looking men and women trudge to and from the beer store with their granny carts and wagons being pulled behind them. And although I could do without the resident crack houses, I don't feel frightened by these folk. In fact, I find that when I just take the time to talk to them, they're just like me. A little worse for the wear, perhaps, but not much else. And more than anything else, I see it when we connect over little Kaiya. No matter what the age, social class, upbringing, drug of choice, a baby somehow is able to bridge the differences. We all coo at her the same and talk about how important it is to enjoy her baby-ness while it lasts.
I get so frustrated at churches who have programs to reach out to "these people." The churches that most frustrate me are all generally located in nice, white, upper middle class neighbourhoods, and the people who attend them and volunteer in these programs pat themselves on the backs for "helping the poor." Now I admit that many of these programs have been set up with good intentions. People really do want to help. I know I can't dismiss them all with one keystroke. I guess what frustrates me more is individuals' attitudes of "not in my backyard." They drive to their church, ladle out some bowls of soup, and drive back home. They are content to do their part as long as it doesn't interfere with their lives. As long as they don't have to question their way of doing things. As long as they can continue to live their happy, insulated lives.
I have some questions for folks like these:
-when was the last time you really talked, and really listened to the people you're trying to help? I mean, without wincing at the curse words, or trying to correct what you perceive as faulty theology?
-when was the last time you let the problems and pain of the people you're trying to help go deep? I mean, deep to the point that you felt it yourself, and it made you question your norms, your priorities, and society's methods of dealing with these hurts?
And for all of us: Why is it that our collective goal in life seems to be to move AWAY from the hurting parts? It's like as soon as we make some money, the first thing we do is buy a 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom house with a big fence in a nice subdivision. And we try to protect our kids from "the bad people." What are we afraid of? I know of plenty of kids in suburbia who ended up on crack, pregnant, with an alcohol problem. Something tells me it's not where you live, but how you live. And if we're really interested in helping the down and out of society, why don't we plunk ourselves right down amongst them? Walk with them, talk with them. Teach our children street smarts instead of just trying to shield them from the seedier sides of life. Teach them to have an open heart, that is willing to question.
That's my soapbox for today. Yes, I'm an idealist. And I will bloody well hold onto that idealism as long as I can. I just don't see how all this segregation does anyone any good. Let's keep questioning, keep doubting, keep stretching ourselves. Let's not label people just so that we can avoid having to think about what their lives present to us.
Have a great weekend, folks!