Living in the neighborhood has given me a strong sense of community that has been lacking from my life. Growing up in a Hutterite colony brought me face to face with community on a daily basis, a sense of belonging that was firm regardless of whether everyday life was filled with peace or tension. Leaving behind such a strong-knit community and culture, and being unable to experience that to the degree I had before, has become a challenge in my life I have been conscious of in the last ten years. Living in the South Side, along with knowing that I am exactly where God wants me to be, has brought me back to the sense of belonging within a community. While the neighborhood that is the South Side is far from what we often would consider the ideal, it is a community that has quickly become close to my heart.
The neighborhood has taught me that children are intrinsic to fostering a sense of community. Children accept others without question and do not hesitate to greet you in passing. Children reciprocate friendliness and have no qualms about having seen you somewhere in the neighborhood and later telling you despite having never spoken to you before. Children are authentic and have many other characteristics that we as adults often lose sight of. Positive relationships lead to greater feelings of community, and children have a special gift that makes this happen. Through children, the potential arises to begin building relationships with parents and guardians, giving the opportunity to walk alongside more people in the neighborhood.
Being present in the neighborhood additionally means that you will be noticed and recognized. While this gives you an opportunity to be a witness in everything that you do, it also requires you to ensure that what you do reflects Christ. I am learning the freedom that lies in always striving to be a witness of Christ and behaving in the same manner regardless of who I am with and where I am, even though my sinful tendencies do not make this easy!
Living in the neighborhood reveals day to day needs of its members. Finding ways in which to meet needs and reach out to others opens doors for building relationships. Healthy relationships have the potential to make positive differences in the lives of others. Those that I live with have the power to impact the quality of my life as being surrounded by these encouraging individuals is a blessing to me. While my internship in part requires me to pursue community involvement, I find myself desiring to do so while enjoying every opportunity I have to be a part of my neighborhood. Our God is a god of relationships. What an excellent way to bring Him glory through developing healthy relationships with those around you, regardless of what their lives look like!
Muriah Stahl, CLDI Intern