Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Slumlord


Four years back the word had never passed my lips. It didn't register as part of my worldview.
It existed only in the context of cities like Chicago, or Detroit.

Its image fell from the big screen in high definition and landed fixed in my mind.

I saw a sinister young man, growling, leering, tight as a wire.
I pictured high rise apartments with bars bent back from busted-out panes.

Our local version was infamous among the select few who stopped long enough to even consider the existence of "slums" anywhere in the vicinity of our tidy, contained, mostly-churched community. He trolled and lurked and robbed desperate people blind. Or that's what I was told. Or that's what I heard.

This man with all his has-been, jacked-up properties was one more hash mark in the column that should have made us just stay home. 

It didn't take long for us to realize that many of the crumbling houses lining our street belong to him, though most people around here prefer to call him by his given name.

I choked on clean air when I discovered he lived just two blocks down.

Then I stood across the room from him, and couldn't stop staring and his gray work pants, his tucked-in button-down, the way the lines around eyes creased in what almost looked like kindness.

Maybe that was the day I knew I might never make sense of our life here.
Or maybe it was tonight, with an extra face around the table, cheeks grubby, teeth filmy, heart so wild with the longing to be cared for and seen.

There's so much we don't know yet about this neighborhood, so much we're too scared or selfish to learn.

But we live among these fragile people and watch as all the ways we've wrongly labeled ourselves split along the seams and fall in a heap around our feet. We aren't so strong and sturdy. We weren't made to be self-reliant or independent. Our middle-class wisdom and responsibility often cause more harm than good.

I love it so much here. I keep searching all the crags and around every blind corner but I can't paint my contentment with one clean reason. It scares me sometimes to feel so at home here. I worry about loving it too much.

Where does it leave me when the shaky ground settles into a new kind of comfort zone?
What am I supposed to do when the gears shift down and I discover I'm taking more from this community than I'm giving?

How can I make sense of  any of this when I stand across the street in my aviator shades and watch as a "slumlord" shuffles up to the door of an elderly lady's splintered home carrying a package of Depends with a 3 Musketeers balanced between his teeth?

If the point of me being here is to understand all the ways I fumble and fail, all the ways I've misjudged, all the times I've chosen fear before hope, I'm inclined to say it's working.

But I know I've got miles to go.
So I'd probably better stay a little longer.

**

Here's the vote link for the #StyleForJustice trip to Rwanda. Just a few days left. Thank you!!

15 comments:

  1. Community works both ways. If you ever find that the community is giving to you, you've probably landed in the good type of comfort zone...the type of comfort where your pride and your walls crumble as you allow yourself to rely on your neighbors for a small thing, or a big thing, instead of only being the provider in the community. It's much easier to give than it is to receive when it's been ingrained in your head that 'we take care of ourselves.'

    Love your family's journey SO MUCH and love love love that you choose to share it with us. All of your posts make me want to come and give all of your neighbors big hugs and baskets of cookies.

    You 5 are special, Shannan!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am always amazed at how beautifully you communicate your heart and mind here in this place!! So thankful to have opportunity to read and pray for you!! (Voted!!)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love the mix of your writing. Some days it's your crazy style, others it's gratitude for your children, some personal growth and observations and changes you've come by in your new neighborhood. It's all written in an easy style I can get around. This is one of my favorite blogs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. She's been mine since (early) 2011. Your the BEST Flowerpatch - the only one granted a place on my tool bar. Love ya!

      Delete
    2. Oh yes & voted (twice). Will wait until after 10 pm & vote again. :)

      Delete
    3. YOU ladies are making me grin!
      Tool bar??? Really?? That's serious business. :)

      Delete
    4. It IS serious! :) Your right up there along with the bank, local weather, Pinterest & FB. My daily checks. Even when I don't comment I ALWAYS read.

      Delete
    5. YES! And right under my favorites so I click right to it on my phone!

      Your words always, always, always challenge me to see the world differently.

      Delete
    6. So serious! ;) No kidding...since the post, Broken for Me...you've been the only one on my toolbar as well. Serious Business!

      Delete
  4. I'm with the ladies above. Can't wait to read what you write. You inspire me! I'm a beginning blogger myself. Searching for what's right in this world. Where do I fit? How do I right so many wrongs around me? I fall easily but still get back up, not willing to give up just yet. Thanks for your voice. It really does inspire. God bless!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I know who you're writing of and I will say interesting perspective and one I've never heard tale of.

    ReplyDelete
  6. agh! so good. voting- done.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I also have to agree with the ladies above, I look forward to reading your post when ever I see a new post pop up in the blog roll. Thank you for always sharing your heart with us! ~hugs~ Have a blessed weekend for sure.

    ReplyDelete
  8. oh, sister. i agree that you have to stay a little longer and look into this more:) i love that you see the slumlord's kindness. i find these nuances fascinating in people. the most unlikely lovely people find their way to your light if you stand still long enough. i find myself drawn to them. xo

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love your writing because you excel at keeping it real and keeping it humble. I so need to be reminded of my fumbling, failing, judgmentally crevices, and you do a great job of shining light into the darkness. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete