There were children playing in the dirt at the apartments on Tallent Street tonight.
That’s how his email began.
If you’re a regular here, you know I love children, and so you probably assume my first thought was of my own two grandsons and their dirt playing. I sure do love that!
But it wasn’t.
You see, I’d been on Tallent Street, too, although somehow I missed seeing the children playing in the dirt. I did, however, see the diaper-clad toddler with her head full of blonde ringlets. I saw the parent (or was she a grandparent?) trying to keep up with said toddler and another young child. I saw a man planting tomatoes in a small container—and hoping his potted hydrangeas weren’t too far gone.
But the children playing in the dirt? …
There’s not a lot of “clean” dirt on Tallent Street. In fact, there’s not a lot of clean anything on Tallent Street. Barely more than an alley, Tallent Street is located in the old downtown section of our small town. In fancy terms, it’s in the historic district—the one some of us are trying to restore to its former beauty. We have a long, LONG way to go!
But in real terms…
Some of the once-beautiful old buildings have basements that open onto Tallent Street. In those basements are what Renaissance Man calls “bottom-of-the-market” apartments. And in those apartments are neighbors—some, families with children. Some, barely scraping by.
So who was I with on Tallent Street that night—and why?
I was with members of the historic district’s newly-formed design committee—and we were getting “up close and personal” looks at the buildings we hope to restore.
We also got an “up close and personal” look at a part of our community some on our committee had never seen before. Apartments they didn’t know existed.
Faces of neighbors they didn’t know existed.
As we walked, I sensed a thoughtful heaviness overtaking a few of my fellow committee members. One woman said, “I didn’t know this was here. I was more comfortable before…”
Yeah, me, too.
But now we know—so what’s going to change? We’re no longer talking solely about broken buildings. We’re talking about broken lives. Neighbors who for various reasons don’t have the same advantages in life that I have. Peripheral people. Invisible people.
People whose names I need to learn… and whose stories I need to hear.
So why the email about children playing in the dirt?
Turns out that scene, imprinted on a young father’s heart, struck a chord of urgency and motivated him to—that very evening—design what could turn out to be a dream come true for the old downtown. I believe he, too, now sees a connection between restoring old buildings and restoring the community in which we live.
We need to move … if only in providing hope to our community.
OUR community. You have one, too. Ours needs Hope… and dirty faith. Ours needs Followers, not just Believers.
What—and who—does your community need? (Hint: YOU are part of the answer!)
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them,‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:37-40)