Friday, August 15, 2014

Palms Up, Hair Down


I dropped the kids off at school this morning then kept on walking in a straight line, into the heart of downtown, through the kinds of neighborhoods that make magazine covers and the kinds most of us avoid. (If my city has both, yours does, too.)

Lining every block were homes filled with people who all want the same things, deep down. We're mothers and wives and sisters and friends. We care for our families and take pride in certain things. We want to believe we are lovable.

I clocked miles and stopped for a piping cup of Earl Grey with my city-sister, Kim. Then I turned around and headed back home, where the bathroom waited to be scrubbed and my writing projects waited patiently for my attention.



I knew my walk was stealing time from things that seemed more important, but I've been wrong before and I'm learning the truth often opposes my instincts.

Along the way, I took loads of photos of pretty homes to share on this little Instagram thing I do called #favoritesofgoshen. I could stand on the curb and stare at beautiful bricks and historical, gingerbread-laden homes all day. They inspire me, but more than that, they make me believe the world is an easy place to be.

These are the homes that really pull me in. My heart always casts the surest line to the neglected, the cracked up and beaten down.

And I know I'm repeating myself, but for real, give yourself permission to suspend judgment, starting today. The next time you drive past "this" home, imagine only the best of the people living inside. They might need something you have to offer, but they might be doing just fine for themselves. They might not need a helper, just a true friend. Reach in and grab all the junk we accumulate living in our privileged corners and toss it out, because I am telling you, politicians and civic groups and churchy folks and our elders teach us things that aren't true. These untruths sow seeds of superiority and disregard that dull our ability to love and before we even stop to think about it, we are no longer the Good News.

Go ahead, ask me how I know this.

A few blocks down, I found a home with a humongo, magical garden smack-dab in their front yard, complete with kale, tomatoes, herbs, and 10' sunflowers. I re-routed to take a closer look, and there they were on the front porch, sipping coffee and wearing their hearts on the fronts of their t-shirts and the ink on their arms. If I had know they were sitting there, I probably wouldn't have walked their way. I'd have gotten that shy feeling and felt strange about the fact that I was technically still in my pajamas and I looked a fright. As if they care.

But God tricked me, so we talked gardens and pickles and yes, the walnut tree really is poisoning our garden.

We shook hands and shared names and I can only hope they are future friends of ours. Their radness and joy still shine on my face.
 
A few more blocks, and here she was. Still working over her fire like she had been when I passed through earlier. I'd had a million questions, but all I'd mustered was a tiny smile and it felt like a victory when she returned it. I didn't think she'd still be there working, hours later.

So I smiled once more, and kept on walking.

See? This is what I usually do. Most of the time, I get tangled up in my insecurities and my strange pride and my reverse-pride, the one that says my neighbor doesn't care.

Something in me made me turn around.

She nodded shy when I asked if I could take her picture. I sputtered out a few words of broken Spanish, enough to confuse her, but not so much that we couldn't patch it all together. She did the same, speaking to me in the language I know best, her skills infinitely sharper than my own, but not close to perfect.

Before I walked away, she handed me something delicious. And I can only hope in my wildest dreams that she is also a future friend.

Two blocks from home, there was Bonnie. It's been months since we've crossed paths and when I shouted her name, it startled her and she jumped into the air. "Shannan!" she yelled back. Then it was  grandkids and great-grandkids and how she still walks her two-mile loop, every single day.

I'm sorting out how my days should be spent now that all the kids are in school. But I have to believe staying inside, keeping to myself, drifting towards people who are mostly like me, isn't what will make me a better neighbor.

And I'm starting to see the best way to love a broken neighborhood is by being a broken neighbor; palms up, ready to spend whatever I have for the sake of His kingdom, hair down, willing to expose my messes and scars and that stubborn humanity I can't seem to keep at bay.

This is community. This is what we were made for.



22 comments:

  1. LOVE lovey!!!! I see an overnight visit, day off work, cup of tea with Kim and a long Friday ayem walk with you in my future. I'm sure Goshen is a slayer in the light of fall! Xoxo

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  2. Ohmigosh. I've taken some little steps toward neighbors-who-are-different-than-me, but this inspires me to be more intentional. Who decided what is "important" when it comes to how we spend our days? I want to say enough "no's" to give me room for the very simple "yes." Thanks for your heart. I'm just crazy about you!

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  3. This. This made me cry. My actions are SO FAR from the little bit of desire God has planted in my heart to change. To quit keeping to myself. To stop being so afraid of ?? I'm not even sure what! I know it all in my head, but how to force myself into action I haven't been able to discover. Your post about your partaaay and how you used to be and now this......it makes me long for something, something I'm scared to try for. Something I'm at a loss to *make* myself do more than sit inside my secure walls and long for. Thank your for sharing your heart and your realness and your hope!

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  4. This is why I love your writing. Keep at it. Great writing flows from a great heart.

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  5. pretty soon you stop noticing the differences. because you're not. that has been my favorite unlearning. love your heart to the moon!

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  6. An amazing walk. I love your stories. You are on a real "mission".

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  7. You always make me love my town even more.

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  8. Love this. We live in a poorer neighborhood, and yes, my first instinct is to always assume my neighbors will want something of me. I do want to suspend all my judgments. And I LOVE the magical garden you happened upon. There is a row of trailers not far from where we live and 4 out of 6 of them have potted plants on their makeshift decks and lined around the edges of the trailers. It makes you stop and look and wonder. I feel shame that I am surprised that trailer-dwellers plants flowers, as if middle class educated women are the only ones who love a zinnia or a petunia. Father, forgive us and teach us love with no borders.

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    1. I love your honesty and I have had similar thoughts more than I care to admit.
      Thanks for adding to this discussion, Lara.
      Transformation is rooted in recognizing where we're wrong!

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  9. i do the very same thing here, wrestling with myself over my own shyness and out-of-placeness, sometimes turning around and going back to talk and--on my best days--acting a fool in swahili because that's when people know i'm split right open, waving them on into my mess.

    i love that we are both feeble threads in the same story, you and i--stitched up in a cloth of glory that covers all the earth. A God of wonder, He is.

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    1. I have been missing you so much, Nic. What can be done about this???

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  10. I could like this post and the comments a million times and it would not be enough!!!!!! I want to come stroll through your neighborhood with you and use my spanish so that maybe I could get one of those yummy things too!!!! :-) I don't live in a neighborhood like yours, but I do have a Walmart and there are SO many opportunities there....Diane, my favorite cashier who wraps me in a bear hug every week and says "i love you' -- and she does!; Janet at the deli counter who let me wrap her in a hug after learning of her daughter's death at the hands of an abusive husband; ....the list goes on! Praying that daily God will open my eyes and give me courage!!!!

    On a totally unrelated note....after resubscribing through feedly I now get to see each of your posts twice! :) Yay for being sure I don't miss one!

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  11. I'm a terrible 'commenter' in that I rarely do....too much 'trouble' to click over from my feed to the specific post to share. So for that I apologize.

    I love this and so many of your posts. You make me stop and think and consider. I grew up in a small town that many might think of as dumpy and it definitely had poorer sections. I LOVED that small town. It had only two paved streets until 1998. I could ride my pony all over town and if she happened to go 'wandering' without me, everyone knew who she belonged to and would call us to come get her. I live in a different small town and commute by car nearly an hour one way to work, just so I CAN live in a small town. Thank you for the reminder to put our comfort zone aside and to connect with our neighbors.

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    1. " I could ride my pony all over town" love this so much.
      I'm from a dumpy-ishn town, too. Only all I had was my bike. ;)

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  12. Pursuing dirty faith... Sounds like you had a morning well-spent, Shannan! Thanks for the peek into your heart. I pray this school year is a wonderful one for every member of your family.

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  13. "I'm learning the truth often opposes my instincts." Yes, me too : ) The older I get, the more I realize that "those people" become something very different when they have a name, a face, a relationship. I'm also realizing that, to someone, I am "those people". Thanks, as always, for your heart.

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  14. I find myself with that awkward shyness and "what if they don't like me -ness". Thanks for the reminder that I am missing out when don't push past that.

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  15. I love this post too! Shannon, you seemed to pull this right out of my soul. I too long, long, long to connect with these neighbors of mine, but I can't seem to think of ANY questions to ask. I'm going to walk the blocks tomorrow, instead of heading over to the bike trail. Maybe someone will be home and outside. Thanks for the encouragement.

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  16. Oh, how I enjoyed this :) How you describe people is refreshing. And, I bet the tortilla made by the sweet woman was delicious! I hope you takes us on more walks!

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