by Matt Johnson
For many of us, the work that we do is slow, subtle and small, at least in the beginning. This reality presents many challenges, particularly since we are living in the age of “short-termism” (a phrase used by Ari Wallach in his TED Talk, “3 ways to plan for the (very) long term”). But occasionally we catch a glimpse of the fruit of our labors. I’m learning it is really important to cherish those moments, and remember them, for it is through remembering those moments that we sustain ourselves in the present, and prepare for a beautiful future.
Let me give you just a thumbnail description of the way the world looks at my neighborhood. If you told a realtor you were going to buy a house in my neighborhood, there is a good chance they would discourage you. My neighborhood, SoCe, has a reputation for higher levels of crime, poverty, drugs and human trafficking. Of course, that isn’t the whole story, and we believe God’s story for our neighborhood is one that is already unfolding in hidden ways all around us. The work of our non-profit, SoCe Life, is to discover those hidden treasures in our midst and invite them to be connected.
And so it was, that recently, my wife, Catherine, and I were out knocking on doors to recruit folks on a particular block to serve as a Block Connector. The Block Connector is a volunteer who is willing to meet the neighbors on their block to learn their stories and especially their gifts. The Block Connector also organizes a couple block parties a year. We knocked on one door and were greeted by a young woman who said she was just 21 years old. Her husband works and she stays home with their young son. We explained what we were doing and she said this idea sounded very cool to her. Then she paused and asked if we were the people who installed the front-yard garden boxes. We laughed and confessed that we were. She again commented on how cool that was, and that she wanted a garden box! Then she asked if we ran the community garden down the street, and we explained that it wasn’t us, but we were friends with them and we’d be happy to introduce her to them. As the conversation unfolded we told her she could visit our office on the opposite side of the neighborhood and she said she thought she had seen it. She asked if it was the office with the Little Free Library in front. Again, we confessed that was us. By this point, we are all three very energized with all these connections. It was then that the conversation reached a crescendo as the young woman said, “I’ve got to tell you, I feel so fortunate to be living in a neighborhood like this. I’ve always dreamed of being someplace where these kinds of things are happening. It is so cool!”
We thanked her for her time and her insights, but I’m not sure she will ever know what a great gift she gave us that day. As I remember that moment now I am energized to continue this work. There is a beautiful future ahead.