By Kelly Carr
My neighborhood has an interesting history. It was established as one of the first places people lived just outside of downtown Cincinnati. Wealthy residents owned large estates, the streetcar brought people up a large incline to its main intersection for shopping, and the place was bustling. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s family lived here, and it was in this community that she was inspired to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin after seeing people escaping slavery in the south by crossing over Ohio’s border.
Through the years, people moved, times changed, and the center of activity ebbed elsewhere. My neighborhood became a place where the less wealthy could find a home. And soon people who were labeled “poor” could find a place to live, but they were shunned by those with money—who soon moved away. Though there were still amazing and caring folks living on its streets, my neighborhood was generally known for criminal activity and undesirable living conditions.
But time and activity shifted again. Over the years people living here made huge efforts to fight crime and bring businesses back to empty buildings. People of all stripes began moving in. But rather than trying to push out those faithful who had remained, people began to coexist. Huge houses on one end of the street are not far from government provided housing half a block away. Walking into the local grocery store you’ll encounter a variety of accents, skin tones, and clothing styles.
Even though all these varieties of backgrounds are residing in the same zip code, we don’t all hang out all the time. Differences can be intimidating. Human nature causes us some fears when we can’t relate to others.
That’s why I’ve appreciated some organizations in our community that have been intentional about creating chances for neighbors to meet one another. We’ve had festivals with bounce houses and food trucks; we’ve had days when people could ride their bikes and jump rope right in the street; there are monthly meet-ups at different businesses; and there are regular work days where people can volunteer their time to pick up trash, paint buildings, and clean up green spaces for new parks.
Do you know what happens when we are playing in the street together or eating a meal together or serving side by side to beautify our living space together? We get to know one another. Differences aren’t as intimidating when we see one another’s smiles and we learn each other’s names.
Become a Neighbor
As usual, Jesus demonstrated the ultimate example for us. God came to our neck of the woods. He walked the streets with people. He ate meals with the rich and the poor. He invited others to serve alongside him. He became our neighbor.
No matter where you live, you likely come into contact with some people who are different than you in some way. I encourage you, just as I challenge myself—let’s push past the intimidation; let’s remind ourselves that the unknown doesn’t have to be feared; let’s take that first step to say hello and be a neighbor to others this week.