Coming into my year in Houston, solidarity seemed pretty straight forward – Do things the way people around you are doing them. Live as close to possible the same lifestyle, to better understand and come alongside my neighbors. So what did this look like?
It meant taking Metro (or walking) as my means of transportation. Many of my neighbors had their own car, but on our budget it was either Metro or a super cheap, shared car for the house. Using Metro meant not always being able to get where I needed to go – more walking! And being on a somewhat unpredictable schedule – a continuing, built-in lesson in flexibility and patience for the year. I also experienced the inconvenience of riding the bus with the week’s groceries because there is no grocery store within walking distance. Many of my neighbors would complain about this as well – especially the older neighbors. Why is there no easily accessible food in our neighborhood?!?
Speaking of food, my team and I lived on a budget.Each week we had a limited amount to spend on groceries, which meant some strategic meal planning. This forced us to make choices on what is important – when do we get more toilet paper, dish soap, lights? It also put us in a place to rely on the “provision of the Lord.” And while that sounds “Christian-y,” there were many times when our needs were met (and exceeded) by food leftover from a Food Fair or somebody offering to drive some of us home from work.
Solidarity meant using the Washateria (laundromat) instead of a washer and dryer in our house. This, again, forced me to consider my budget, making sure I would be able to have clean clothes for the month. And it also showed me the relationships that can form through solidarity. Often I would witness neighbors connecting & catching up with each other while doing their laundry. The Wash is a place to find out neighborhood news and re-connect with friends you haven’t seen in a while.
And, as I write this post-Mission Year, I continue to think what solidarity can look like in my life. Where will I chose to spend money? What kind of balance can I make between using Metro and a car? How does my money impact the people and community around me (shopping/eating local vs. chain)? Does the place I live fit me – and does that support the gentrification of a neighborhood? Plenty to consider.