I appreciate the need to understand cultures, people groups and racial differences to be better equipped to do neighborhood work and live in our world. Yet, in my experience the best way to embrace and engage a community is to actually choose to live in the neighborhood. Naively it’s easy to think that it’s a ‘piece of cake’ to fit into to a new community, yet, it takes years of living, working, playing, worshiping, struggling and just being there to become part of the fabric.
I’ve been asked by many friends outside my community how much longer I’m going to do neighborhood work. This is a very emotional, difficult topic to address. I love my kids, teens, grandmas and single moms so it’s almost impossible to imagine not living here forever! I’m so blessed and fortunate to have friends who adopt you into their families!
What has to happen for someone to make you family? I will always remember having a friend in our group intentionally name their son after my son and choose to use our last name for their little guy’s last name. The journey that is required to be family is your willingness, availability to just be there 24-7! It’s choosing to let things that could push you apart to not matter. This isn’t easy in today’s racially, politically, religiously divided world. It’s so easy to look at our differences that what draws us together.
I know that too often in my circle of Christian friends it’s sad that our theological differences seem to determine at times whether we can be real friends, besties or buds. I know that when someone has my back it makes it so much easier to watch theirs. Yet, too often we allow the myth that homogeneity is the norm for everything. We want to shop where everyone looks like us. We want our kids to attend schools where everyone has the same skin color, is monolingual and likes the same football team.
I live in the 5th or 6th largest city in our beautiful country. What’s amazing to me is that I can make new friends who have no idea that Phoenix is a diverse global city. The opportunity is for you to drive out of your garage onto the freeway of the world and see your larger neighborhood. The unfortunate face is that most stay in their homogeneous neighborhood to assume that everyone in the Valley of the Sun is the same. Amazingly the Starbucks I frequent every day is international in its’ coffee addicts!
The opportunity is to stop keeping people, kids, seniors at a distance and instead choose to become a friend, learn about what it was like living in Phoenix in the 50’s as a Black young woman who actually picked cotton. (Meet Ms. Martha who is 90 and one of my neighborhood grandmas.)
Family is everything!