Thursday, January 15, 2015

Come to the City with Me

Come to the city with me, will you? I would like to have you "meet" some of my friends, some of the people I have worked with or done business with, some of the people I have taken college classes with. I don't live in the inner city but I sometimes do business there. And I live in a diverse area. I'm a minority in many places where I shop and go about my business.

I speak mostly in the present tense here, but I'm touching on the past eight years of living in Baltimore.

Here's my good friend, walking to the bus stop. She lives with her two children, her children's father, and her mother, in the so-called "inner city" (or that was where she lived, at the time I'm referring to). She used to work a job where she managed other people, but it involved out-of-state travel, and when her first son was born, she wanted to spend more time with him. So she got a job closer to home. She drives to work, but this day, that I'm sharing with you, her car is in the shop, and her man goes to work early, so you would see her walking to or from the bus. Her children are very involved in sports, academics, and school civics, and she is very proud of them.

My son takes the bus to his first year of college (several years ago). One afternoon he tells me about the women he sees on the bus each day, all dressed up to go to an office job, getting off the bus with children who are carrying miniature backpacks or little lunch bags. He notices the dedication of these women, as he observes that they are taking their children to day care, and, as he says, then they will probably get back on the bus again in order to go on to their workplaces.

A few years later, I'm taking a class with some of the women who take care of these women's children, or other children like them. My fellow students take these classes in addition to working and, for those who are mothers, in addition to taking care of their own children as well. We share stories and have important discussions, and I learn much from their experience and wisdom.

Here's one young student who is usually a little late to class. She lives a little further out than I do. She walks a very long way to get to the nearest bus stop, but she is always cheerful and so enthusiastic about learning and life.

As with any area I've lived in, not everyone is always enthusiastic. There are people who work with customers every day, who look tired, and they probably are tired, both physically and emotionally. They might not always offer 'service with a smile'. But I've found they will always serve, and always go the extra mile if there is a problem, and often wish me a blessed day.

I sometimes forget that you aren't "supposed to" talk to strangers in any big city. I didn't grow up in a city, and although I lived in Los Angeles for years, I next lived in a fairly rural community in Kentucky for more years after that. So, sometimes I'm walking through a store or a shopping center and, as I pass a man, I sometimes say hello (just as I often do with women too). Any time I say "hello", he says, politely, "Good morning," or "Good afternoon. How are you?" or something similar. By saying "he", I'm not talking about one man. I'm talking about every man I have ever "met", since I've been here, young or old. I have received nothing but respect from the men in this city.

We frequent a historic downtown church which attracts people from many miles away, a church which is located a block or two from a rough neighborhood. It's a bit of a drive for us. At a church coffee social, I meet a woman about my age who has been attending this church for years. She's so sweet, I wish I lived closer to her, so I could get to know her better.

I could introduce you to more people I know or do business with, here in this diverse city. But just know this. The people I know or meet each day, some of whom live in the inner city, and among many of whom I am a minority...these are my people. These are my neighbors, my former co-workers, and my classmates; these are some of my doctors, nurses, bankers, and professors.

So when I read negative things in the news, and social media, which talk about "those people"…people who live in the inner city, or whatever else that phrase may mean to different people…I don't just cringe (although I do that); but more than that, it gives me real pain. I'm wondering if that's how God feels, too, when we talk in negative ways about any of the people he has created, when we judge people as members of one group or another, be it racial, economic, or anything else. 

I think we sometimes forget that each and every person was created lovingly by God in his image and likeness. When Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves, someone asked him, "Who is our neighbor?"…and he told a parable we have come to call "the story of the Good Samaritan". Isn't it interesting that he picked a Samaritan for the hero of his story? He picked someone from a group that was racially a little different from many of the people he was talking to, a group which was somewhat segregated. I wonder if he was trying to tell us something.

You might also like to read the post I wrote the next day, Why Did I Write "Come to the City with Me"?

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