Dear friends: More than two years ago, Peggy and I made a commitment to move into Summerhill, the devastated neighborhood immediately to the west of us. We have since had long discussions about the timing of our move - whether we should wait until Jonathan graduates from high school; whether we should move before the killing is brought under control in the housing project adjacent to our lot. We have had endless conversations about our house plan, landscaping, interior design and decorating. We have met with prospective neighbors to pray and plan for our new life together in the community. We sold our home on Walker Avenue and moved into temporary housing so there would be no delay once our Summerhill house was constructed. Since the day Peggy and I made the difficult decision to relocate, we have never looked back. Not until now.
The past two months have been an emotional rollercoaster for us. As I expressed in my last Urban Perspective, I recently became aware that I had taken far too much ownership and control of the vision to revive Summerhill. While I have preached "empowerment," I never considered that the time might come when indigenous leadership would be better served by my stepping back. It has become painfully clear that my "take-charge" style of leadership in the new Orchard subdivision, and in other high-visibility roles in Summerhill, has reached a point of diminishing returns. It is right that I pull back quietly to the periphery of the vision and offer my investments as gifts to God and to the community.
While I have been struggling with these leadership issues, Peggy has been facing a different set of concerns. In the past, she has paid a price for being my partner in the midst of disruptive and sometimes controversial urban change. She has often been wounded by the fire that I have drawn. A few evenings ago on one of our long walks, Peggy risked revealing some hidden feelings that she had been shielding from me. She spoke of a long-concealed tiredness in her spirit that 22 years on the front had produced. She admitted to the stress of following my dreams and visions, and to her fatigue in forever pushing to the edges of the urban frontier. She told me of her secret wish to plant a tree and see it grow, and of her longing for a sense of her own rootedness. She shared her desire for close neighborly relationships that deepen over time. If she could have her heart's desire, she said, she would move back to Walker Avenue and put down roots.
How strange it was as I listened to her that I felt not a hint of rebuttal stirring within me! My typical response to Peggy's resistance is gentle persuasion. This time it was different. There was a unique convergence in our spirits that felt at once peaceful and exciting. Somehow I knew it was time to give deference to the one who for more than two decades has been my most steadfast supporter.
This week we purchased a lot on Walker Avenue, just a few doors down from the home we built seven years ago when this mixed-income "Tapestry" community was just a dream. We will once again build and settle in - this time for the long term - among diverse and beloved neighbors with whom we have shared the last seven years of our lives.
People change. And so, too, their roles. The grief of relinquishing our place in the Orchard development is fading. Learning to effectively serve the people of Summerhill from behind the scenes is a new challenge (and serious commitment). And taking time to water a tree has a growing appeal to me. To everything there is a season.
Your partners in service, Bob and Peggy Lupton