Lessons Learned

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*Gus is a recent graduate of our nine-month internship program, the Fellowship House.  The following is a reflection of what the South Side, the community in which we reside and work, taught him.  Currently Gus is working for the summer at an inner-city home repair camp (SOS) and will be attending Moody Bible Institute in Chicago in the fall.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:35 ESV)
The South Side has shown me that demonstrating love through community is vastly important.  Jesus told his followers that their defining mark on the world would be shown through the love they shared.  This, then, must be followed by two questions: 1) How do I “have love” for others?and 2) What does this look like practically?  Jesus answers both these questions with the story of the Good Samaritan.  After two religious teachers pass by a man in need, a non-religious man cares for him.  Scripture says, “The one who showed him mercy” fulfilled the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  My thought has always been that one should show mercy and therefore fulfill the second greatest commandment, but perhaps it goes the opposite way.  What if the best way to show mercy is to first become one’s neighbor?  I think that this line of thinking has been concreted into my mind through the time I have spent living in the South Side.
Mercy is often made into a system.  People turn into statistics.  They become problems to be fixed and their lives become situations that they need be rescued from.  I cannot show mercy to a statistic.  I cannot have love for a problem.  For these things, I can only have pity, frustration, and resentment.  To truly show mercy and have love, I must have community and I must be a neighbor.
Since moving to the South Side, I have experienced a deep sense of family and oneness in this neighborhood that I have never before seen.  Everyone is interconnected.  People share struggles, pains, losses and shortcomings.  However, they also share hopes, dreams, and victories.  People have a lot of interactions.  They are an actual community.  I’m told this is common in areas where poverty is high.  I grew up in a middle class neighborhood and barely knew any of my neighbors.  Seeing a neighborhood where community flourishes, even if it is sometimes dysfunctional, is amazing.
When I am a neighbor, relationships grow because I am living alongside people.  I have seen my view of certain youth change monumentally as our relationships have grown.  The same is true of my view of the neighborhood.  As I have lived in the community and become part of the neighborhood, my love and desire for the neighborhood has grown exponentially.  Because I have become a neighbor, the hopes, dreams, victories, struggles, losses, and shortcomings have become my own.  I no longer pity the neighborhood’s struggles but now have mercy in their pain.  Because I am a real part of the community, I now can honestly love its people in the way Jesus commanded.

Gus Goldberg, Fellowship House Intern

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