Yesterday I went on the Greensboro Housing Coalition’s “Healthy Homes Bus Tour.” This was the third annual Tour, and basically we rode around Greensboro on chartered buses to see homes that either had been improved due to the Housing Coalition’s efforts or homes that still needed work. It was very encouraging to see how the Coalition really is having an effect in terms of getting slumlords to comply with basic housing codes on their buildings and to see how Habitat for Humanity is making an impact on existing homes through its Home Repair program. There were some truly awful houses that have been either knocked down (and the tenants relocated to better homes) or repaired, and they seem to be on their way to reducing substandard housing in Greensboro by 50% by the year 2008.
However, inside I was so up and down as far as urban ministry goes (granted, I was pretty close to exhausted following being out of town for a few days).
As we drove through a neighborhood not far from mine, yet in considerably more disarray, I got excited looking at the houses there, seeing them as they could be and not as they are, and I felt excitement over possibly living there.
On the other hand, as we toured the city, most of the homes that needed work or had been neglected were in parts of town where mostly black or Hispanic people lived. The dividing line of race and class was so clear, almost as though I had not seen it before, and it broke my heart. It’s like there are two worlds in Greensboro and it feels as though the divide is unbridgeable. It’s not just a black-white divide. It’s money and privilege and ignorance and crime and more.
The last house we looked at was in a nicer neighborhood near UNCG with houses that probably are worth over $200,000. As we drove those streets, my heart longed to live there, to have shady sidewalks bordered by well-kept lawns, where things are quiet and orderly and predictable, where there was aesthetic beauty all around and just a peace that comes from life being similar to how it was when I was growing up. I was so sad that this was not my home and that this was not the part of town that I was called to, and I was sad that my heart was still so drawn to that part of life, even after five years living and serving here.
Not sure what to do with all I felt or whether most of that was emotion brought on by being tired. But my heart was heavy as I got off the bus and headed home. I’m so thankful that when I came in my door here on Silver Avenue, I had such a sweet family excitedly waiting to greet me!