It's been about a year and half since I moved five miles (about 70 blocks) away from where I grew up. I spent some time this week thinking about the experience and the difference between where I grew up and where I live today.
I grew up in Belmont Shore, a middle to upper class neighborhood in Long Beach for about 26 years. The beach was only three blocks away but having grown up in one place your whole life; it loses sparkle. Wind Surfers, kayaks, and boats were a common sight for me. I had my choice of swimming, water polo, baseball and basketball leagues that I played seasonally, not ever recalling a time that I was bored. On the other hand, I don't have a memory of having a meal with a neighbor. I never got coffee with the guy next door, or really had an idea what my neighbors did for work or fun. This to me was normal.
I would never complain about my life: the opportunities to travel to Brazil, Hawaii, and New York, the opportunity in high school to be a part of the best water polo team to have ever played the game. I look at those days and yes, I am grateful that I got to have those experience and yet those are not the experiences that are shaping and have shaped my life.
Having the chance to be a part of Kingdom Causes has giving me a wider worldview. In June of this year I moved into a new house in the neighborhood of Willmore City. In less than three days of moving, I was invited to a dinner with two Latino families that lived directly behind me. In only three days, I experienced something that I never experienced in my entire life. I had not done Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) or asset mapped the entire block. Instead, it was a simple invitation by a middle-aged mom in broken English to have dinner.
You see my new neighbors are from Mexico. Most of them are first generation Mexicans, who in the last 25 years illegally crossed over the border. It is funny to think back on my times with them. My two years of high school Spanish does not hold up well with my new neighbors. It is typically my silly dance moves and group laughter that creates friendship in my neighborhood. We have had over 20 parties together since that time. My neighbors love one another, and the truth is that I love them. They are my mother, father, sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles. They are my family even though there is major divide that is still there because of our difference languages.
In June we started an English class because one mom simply wanted to learn English. We have had up to fifteen parents in the neighborhood show up to the class at my house. A group of three people from a local church called The Garden have been faithful to serve and bless my neighbors. They are all Spanish teachers, and the take time every Tuesday to slowly teach the neighbors English and build friendship. What this has created is strong bonds of trust with everyone. This Saturday I am going to a baptism in our backyard for Jocelyn, who is three, and her mom has been one of our most consistent and eager learners in the neighborhood.
Re-neighboring the neighborhood takes time. Making visible all the amazing invisible things that neighbors are already doing, takes time. There is nothing better than living around people that love you, support you, feed you, and care about you. This last year and a half has transformed my mind, my heart, and my life. Let's get back into the neighborhood.