“Those who do not run away from our pains but touch them with compassion bring healing and new strength. The paradox indeed is that the beginning of healing is in the solidarity with the pain.” – Henri Nouwen
Currently I’m reading Reaching Out, which is where this quote comes from. With pretty much anything that Nouwen writes, it has me thinking tons – about myself, my community, how I (want to) live and my faith.
So, why this quote for a FMF? I believe that all the talk and thinking about the future has somehow brought me to the realities of the present. This community – both the neighborhood and the people I live with – are great. Agreeing to live with “strangers” for an entire year in a city I’d never been to, there is plenty that could have gone wrong with that.
But it didn’t. I ended up in Houston with seven amazing (and also broken) individuals. Their amazing-ness didn’t hide the fact that each of us is broken (at least, not always). And moments of broken-ness didn’t (doesn’t) change the beauty of each one of us. In this space of shared beauty and broken-ness, grief and joy – a wonderful thing called community is being realized. I say “being realized” because as long as we keep living, and being present, our community will continue to change, adapt to our life circumstances and what is happening in the world around us (both in a global and local sense).
I would never be able to understand the goodness within me without sharing the pains with those around me. And I’m learning that vulnerability begets vulnerability begets authentic community living.
Living in Third Ward Houston comes with several assumptions. Despite some negative stereotypes about this neighborhood, I’m loving my neighbors.
The past two weekends Raul took a housemate and I around town to see some of the “hidden treasures” of Houston. His passion for art, a city’s history and families is contagious. I find myself wanting to know more about when groups of people came to Houston, why the neighborhoods are set up the way they are and where I can find local art. He showed us Smither Park – where local artists are creating a huge mural/mosaic wall. We saw the first black school in Houston, as well as an old jail and one of the first Catholic churches. He tells stories about his family freely as we travel… and I appreciate this.
Earlier in the month we had several neighbors over for dinner. Maggie made tamales with the help of one of our Hispanic neighbors (they were delicious). Raul stopped by with his grandson before heading to the park. One of our closer neighbors, Ms. Shirley, stopped by briefly before going with her daughter. And Ebony (who doesn’t even live in our neighborhood anymore) was around, so she came and shared food and stories with our team. Part of what makes this neighborhood (and our house) so great is the ability (and freedom) for people, friends, to just stop by for however long they are able.
And the great part is, we are able to stop by their houses as well! Grandma Mae would likely yell at me if I passed by her house and didn’t say Hi. Same with Uncle. In fact, he has called out to us before if we don’t stop for a quick visit on our way to the bus stop. Many hours I have spent on his porch as he shares stories about his old jobs, traveling, racing, his mule (Sam-mule) and family. As much as I love these times, I didn’t realize the impact I (we as a team) were having. Uncle made a comment about how much he enjoyed us stopping by and joining him on the porch.
I’m coming to realize that the everyday, seemingly trivial actions and conversations have great value. Yes, there are “big” moments and conversations that will happen. But there is something possibly greater in the memory and feelings of porch-sitting with a neighbor.