I was recently part of a conversation about inequalities in our communities with a group of leaders in our city. One participant turned towards me and another colleague who also lives on the south side of Atlanta. He said, “I mean, I want change. But I’m not willing to do what you all are doing.”
It’s not an uncommon sentiment. I’ve often heard similar statements when I share my family’s decision to live and raise our kids in an under-resourced community. Still, my heart skips a beat anytime I hear this type of resistance, and I want to defend my neighborhood.
Our neighborhood has its share of challenges, to be sure. But it’s on the streets of South Atlanta I have come to understand God’s goodness and love in ways I have never experienced any other place.
It’s on the streets of South Atlanta I have seen God’s provision as residents pool resources to create programs for fellow neighbors.
It’s on the streets of South Atlanta I experience community through unlikely friendships and gracious acceptance from those different than me.
It’s on the streets of South Atlanta I witness joyful giving as our friend who is homeless gives my daughter her last pennies for a birthday present.
It’s on the streets of South Atlanta I bask in grace and love on moon-drenched front porches while neighbors listen to my hopes, brokenness, and struggles of life.
It’s on the street of South Atlanta I see God’s redemption each spring as flowers relentlessly push through cracks in the sidewalks, reminding us of beauty in broken places.
I rarely feel brave or heroic for the life we live. But I do feel deeply loved by a community of neighbors and a God that is present and working in the hard places. God’s love on the streets of South Atlanta draws me closer to God’s heart.
Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)