Archive for September, 2011
My husband, Josh, and I decided that on Saturday evening we would take a nice long walk around our neighborhood, Peoplestown. Saturday’s are a day meant to be spent out in the community getting to know our neighbors, and we’re encouraged to invite people over for dinner. We were feeling discouraged because the people we met at the Laundromat the week before weren’t there this week, there was no cookout in the park we could walk over to, and no one was coming over for dinner. So we thought taking a walk might help, just maybe we would meet someone along the way.
While walking the streets of our neighborhood we discussed that if there were groups of people out in their yards who seemed inviting that we would make a point to stop and talk. The past weekend we felt like we had missed out on a couple good opportunities to do this because we kept on walking. But the longer we walked, no one seemed to be out and the few who were shared brief encounters and nothing else. We walked down a couple more streets and finally decided we should head home, both of us with an obvious frustration about the situation.
As we reached our place, simultaneously we both broke out saying how we felt like we weren’t doing something right. Shouldn’t we be building relationships with our neighbors, having people over, and kids waiting at the door to play? We’d heard all these stories about people’s Mission Year experiences and the neighbors they had met and grown to love, and we both shared how we felt like we were missing out on something.
After discussing our feelings about the situation, it was quite clear that we felt like we were missing out on community.
A strong motivation for us deciding to do Mission Year was the strong focus on community. We had moved to Cleveland, Ohio for jobs out of school, not knowing many people, and the two years we lived there we struggled to find a sense of community. I loved my job and the community I felt with my co-workers and Josh felt the same way, but we constantly struggled to find that same comfort and sense of belonging together outside our workplaces. And as much as I enjoyed my job, I was miserable at the same time because I didn’t have community.
Sitting there Saturday night I began to worry that those same feelings would creep back in and that was something I couldn’t bear.
While having dinner Sunday night with a couple that did Mission Year several years ago, we were open about our feelings of frustration. They were straightforward with us that it took several weeks before people started coming over and several months before it became consistent. But they discussed the different versions of community they had during that time, and it got me thinking that maybe we did have community developing.
It took me until this morning (Monday) to realize how blessed we have been with community since coming to Atlanta. While waiting for the other married couple to move in next week, our City Directors have supported us by stopping by and inviting us over for dinner. We’ve had the opportunities to have dinner with Mission Year: Married alumni who live in the area. We have taken the time to travel to the other team’s houses to spend time discussing our current curriculum. The ladies at church have started to take us in. And the staff at Emmaus House has been extremely welcoming and willing to help us get connected to people in our neighborhood.
In the book we are currently reading by John Perkins it states, “Even good intentions can’t rush a deep relationship into existence.” Every connection, every friendship, every relationship has to start somewhere, and expecting people to instantly warm up to us when we’re new in the neighborhood is unrealistic. I just thank God for the community He has already provided for us and the community He is going to provide.
1. Wear appropriate shoes when walking around town. This is especially important when you have a 15-20 min walk to church. The cuteness factor doesn’t matter when your feet are covered in blisters and you want to stand and greet people.
2. While old houses have a certain charm to them, they also come with easy access to small friends. For example, our little “friends” enjoyed some Sun Chips we left out. (No worries we are dealing with the issue)
3. Sirens and train horns are background music, and many people we have talked with say the sound of the train horns provide a certain comfort.
4. Want to meet someone? Take a nice long stroll around your neighborhood. We have met and talked with some very nice people.
5. MARTA (the public transportation) may not always be the most convenient option; however, you can meet and talk with a lot of people both on the bus and at the stops.
6. When honest about why we moved to Atlanta people seem to be very intrigued – the man on the airplane, the bank-teller, the lady waiting to get her car fixed. And every person has provided us with a different view on the city.
7. Our area of Atlanta is not the most bike friendly, not only because of traffic but due to lots and lots of hills. We’re hoping to get used to it.
8. Grits are actually really good, especially when cheese is added. The ladies that cook Sunday breakfast at our Church do a wonderful job, and we’re excited for them to teach us how to cook grits this coming Sunday.
9. Manager specials at the local Kroger’s are essential when grocery shopping on a budget.
10. While this year is going to have its ups and downs, God has a plan. As the church down the street has on their front sign, “God makes all things possible, not easy.”
After a two day drive down to Atlanta, we have had a whirl wind of events to introduce us to the city. We will be living with another couple, Grant and Shannon Jenks, in a two bedroom apartment above the main area of Emmaus House (check them out at www.emmaushouse.org ), which is multi-house facility that serves the area of Atlanta we are living and where I will be volunteering. The place is actually larger than the apartment we have been living in, which is nice, and the best aspects of the place are the central air conditioning and the dishwasher, which we haven’t had for the past two years.
We are specifically in an area of South Atlanta called Peoplestown, which is one of the poorer communities. Originally one of the old Victorian Street-Car neighborhoods that provided easy access to affluent Caucasian people working downtown, the area is a predominantly African-American neighborhood with a median household income of $23,600. On the northern border of Peoplestown is the Atlanta Braves stadium, and already today we were asked on the bus if we knew where we were going because we had based the bus stop for the stadium.
While yesterday we had short introduction to the city and to MARTA, the public transit, we spent all day today exploring the city and getting used to how the public transportation system works in Atlanta. We had a list of places to find and take pictures of, which included us taking both buses and the train.
Josh and I are already realizing that this next year is going to be an adjustment and challenge too many aspects of the life we have grown accustomed too. We are already learning how much we lived in excess, that you can live on $17 per person for food a week, and we have way to many clothes. I know am extremely excited and nervous all at the same time to what is to come, but for once in my life I am loving not knowing what is next, not having the answers, and completely trusting that God knows what He is doing with my life.