This is My Neighborhood

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*The following is part of a series called “A Changed Perspective” to challenge the way in which we view the world, culture, people, and places from a biblical perspective. Undoubtedly, for Christ followers to live in the world but not be of the world is a challenging task, but with humble spirits, teachable hearts, the Word of God, and His Spirit that lives within to guide and lead us, He allows us to be part of His redemptive work in the world around us.

This particular blog was written by our own Jane Lee who currently is an intern with Youth Works and lives in the South Side. Her love of the neighborhood is birthed out of connection and understanding – connecting with the youth in and around her home and having a clearer understanding and grasp of the rich and colorful culture that she is immersed in. We are delighted that Jane is going to stay on for one more year with CLDI as a second year Intern focusing on building “Leaders” through the Rail//Line Apprenticeship program. I can promise you that if you take to the time to come down and have a cup of coffee with Jane and listen to the stories she’s experienced through the internship – you won’t be disappointed. As a matter of fact, you may walk away with a changed perspective…

While I have not had the opportunity to know any of my neighbors exceptionally well throughout the internship, the few weeks spent working from home during COVID-19 have provided me a unique opportunity to interact with more people in the neighborhood than I have in the last six months. I have so enjoyed going for walks and runs this last month. I love seeing smiling faces of those I pass by, meeting friendly dogs, and listening to kids giggle as they ride their bikes down the sidewalk. I feel like over the last six months I have spent so much time working and being away from my house that I haven’t done a great job of engaging with neighbors immediately around me. 

Thankfully, some neighbors have done the most difficult task of “introducing” for me. One neighbor that I have a particular fondness for is seven-year-old Kyle* next door. I first met him at Orchard Elementary. He introduced himself to me at lunch by telling me that he knew where I lived. I assumed he meant 316, but no: he proceeded to tell me that I lived on 2nd Avenue South. Naturally, I was shocked and asked him how he knew that, to which he replied, “You’re my neighbor!” I felt a little bad that a first grader was better at knowing his neighbors than I was. In the days since, when I see him at school, he always greets me with a goofy smug look on his face and a “Hey, neighbor.” It has been so fun living down the street from so many students that I know from Orchard. I love getting to wave at them as they ride by on scooters and bikes. In the future, I would love to live in the same neighborhood as the students I work with at school. 

While having kids running around is an obvious perk, I think that the biggest way that I have been affected by my neighbors is in how I do not walk around the South Side in fear anymore. I feel like I have ownership and a responsibility to change people’s perceptions of the South Side because it is now my neighborhood. These are my neighbors, and I know that the neighborhood gets a bad rap because I grew up in Billings. Recently, while Connor (fellow intern) and I were sitting outside, stretching after a run, we met a woman named Kim who was walking by with her dog Whitey Buffalo. We introduced ourselves, and she asked how long we’d lived here and told us about how ugly our house used to be (which we’ve heard from seriously so many people!). We made some small talk and found out she lives a few streets over. In talking about the neighborhood, she referred to the South Side as “the good hood.” I loved that! This is the good hood, full of rich history and people made in the image of God, and I have loved living here.

I am excited that I have signed on with CLDI for another year as an Intern 2.0! I have the opportunity to work with CLDI’s latest project/social enterprise Rail//Line Coffee and their apprenticeship program  by providing case management and teaching job and leadership skills. This opportunity affords me the ability to stay where I’m at for another year. As for me personally, I have set a goal of more – to sit on my porch more, meet more of my neighbors, and enjoy living on the South Side for at least one more year, but hopefully, more to come

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