We arrived the “hood” last night. The heart of Phoenix’s inner city, it is a place I feared and resented greatly a couple of years ago when mom and dad moved here. I thought they were crazy when they first said they were going. They were leaving us to live and serve the poor, the over looked, the thrown away. When they left, I became internally bitter that others would experience their love daily and my family would have to experience it from afar.
Time however, has shown me, mom and dad’s love is never far from us. Our hearts are beautifully tied together no matter the physical distance. Time has also shown me the beauty of this place and it touches my heart deeper every time I am able to be part of it. The “hood” isn’t really a hood at all. It is a living, breathing alive community — a neighborhood — that deserves so much better than my previous indignant scorn.
Last night as we pulled into mom and dad’s small drive way, the fear that use to consume me was no longer there. Instead I was filled with a happiness to be at our home away from home. Similarly, today when we headed out to do a shopping run, I wasn’t looking all around for hidden hoodlums before sending my kids to the car out front. My mind wasn’t focused on their safety but rather was filled with thoughts of the families that live and struggle here just to survive.
Like you and me, they BBQ, play their music and enjoy the heat of the days and nights. Just like us, they passionately love their children and deeply desire better lives for them. Just like us they have heartaches, disappointments and failures – albeit more out in the open for criticism and rebuke than our own.
Just like our neighborhoods, the people here are gentle and kind. Men, who were once hardened gang members, sit around the table in the back yard and study the bible with dad. Women bring their children by on occasion to watch movies with mom and they love her gentle kind spirit at the church. Yes, this place is in some ways so simple and in other ways mind twistingly complex. Beauty, joy, peace mixed with prejudice, rage and hopelessness. It is a battlefield that won’t be won with weapons – it will be won with love.
Yes, I have learned something by coming and staying in the hood. While it looks and feels so much like an us versus them — a haves and a have nots — and a good versus the bad reality; if we pause, listen, love, learn and offer as much grace as we desire our own situations, the picture becomes much more a “we” a “humanity” a “persons” reality filled with hope, resilience and inspirations galore.
Tonight as the sunsets in the distance, I am thankful for the hood. It is teaching me how to be a better person. By being here I am learning to look beyond the broken down houses, the dirty clothes and tattoos to the wonderful hearts, minds and persons of great grace and dignity. Through those who live here I see the living, breathing truth of 1 Peter 4:8,
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Because of this
hood, living, breathing, alive community — this neighborhood — I am learning so much about humility, grace and God’s enduring love and peace for ALL who will allow Him to set them free!
John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
May we all see the value in the people in our lives just like God does regardless of income, race, ability or disability. May we all grow in love, peace, patience, kindness and respect towards others. May the love of God shine brightly no matter the darkness that tries to surround it.
Above pictures come from Mom and Dad’s neighborhood. You will see their home (with the red door). There are pictures on their street that show other homes – some abandoned and boarded up. A school bus is in one picture — wonderful children coming home from school. Some are from the back yard – where you see other abandoned buildings. Though it is rough around the edges – there is a beauty in this neighborhood!
Take a moment if you have time to watch this short video showing the neighborhood my parents live in – the people they love – the people I am coming to love as well!