This place is changing me. I'm feeling it now.
Moving downtown to our beautifully diverse neighborhood last summer felt so "scary" at the time. I knew our family was changing internally to feel more at home in a diverse, urban culture, but it was one thing to believe what I believed, to care about what I cared about, and another thing for us to come and SETTLE in a neighborhood perceived by locals as "the 'hood."
"You shouldn't live there," well-meaning people in our church would tell us.
So it was with great trepidation I left a place and a lifestyle in which I was very comfortable to come to a place where I initially was not. (We even kept our former house as a rental just in the event we wanted to move back.)
It hasn't even been a year, and I'm not sure I'll ever go back to suburbia.
The other night, our family ventured to our former side of town to visit a local pizza place and ice cream store we used to frequent often. It's in a well-to-do section of town, and we absolutely love the family that owns the restaurant. It was well worth the drive to see them again, and we enjoyed our visit there, but Marc and I looked at each other across the table and said,
"This feels so different now."
It's weird. Really weird. What was so comfortable and so "us" was now feeling not "us," you know? I don't know that we could even put our finger on exactly why. I mean, it wasn't just the apparent lack of racial diversity-- there was one other "token" black guy there besides Jameson in a sea of peachy-pink faces, but I think it had more to do with the lack of economic diversity and historic charm that felt more strange than anything.
Everyone seemed to look alike. Everything just seemed to be, a little um, bland and boring.
(And in walks our family.... ha ha!)
I guess living in a historic section of town where each of the houses are just as unique and different as much as the people are has impacted me. I always thought of myself as wanting to "fit in" to be accepted. I always thought I'd be the suburban mom driving kids to and from soccer practice. I thought moving "up" looked like moving to new and "safe."
Maybe my daughter's alopecia began this long process of breaking the status quo's in my heart. It was gut-wrenching watching my daughter's hair began falling out. It wasn't the "look" I wanted for my family at the time.
But how beautiful is it to look back and see the Lord's work in our lives since that first night we discovered a clump of her hair in our hands. Being different is beautiful. If it took losing a head of hair to begin such a long-term heart transformation, I'd do it all over again.
I look out my window and see men and women walking up the street to the bus stop to get anywhere. We have the densest population in the city, and one of the poorest, and no grocery store within miles. Families living on my street made it through the winter huddled in one bedroom WITH ONLY A SPACE HEATER. People in my neighborhood work like crazy-- two and three jobs, day and night-- and still struggle to make ends meet financially.
You might be tempted to think I have something to offer them. That by moving here, I could be a blessing to such a place as this "hood."
Maybe I can, and I do somehow hope to be, but the real change is happening to me. Sure, it's great that my son isn't the only one that looks like him now. But this place is changing me.
Maybe it looks like I have all the "stuff," but I'm just as poor and broken as the person next to me. Living among a mix of cultures helps me better question and understand my own. Issues like healthcare and immigration become more about real people than political topics. The world looks very different from this street than it did before in my suburban neighborhood.
I never would have guessed the journey the Lord would take us on.. but my life feels SO much richer now than ever.
The 'hood is changing me.