“If you could describe your neighborhood in one word, what would it be?”
This was a question our team asked of a group of leaders who are using our Flourishing Neighborhood Index. Their neighborhood is one of a handful of unique and storied neighborhoods that make up their city’s International District. As the gathered leaders texted in their answers to our virtual meeting’s poll, the word cloud that came together on our screen surprised us in the most wonderful way.
FCS’s Lupton Center works hard to understand the ways poverty and injustice impact communities and what can be done to create real and lasting change. We are troubled by the stories, metaphors, euphemisms, and statistics that are often used to describe these communities as they often reveal a serious chasm between those who desire to help and those who are perceived to be in need of help.
We have all heard places described as “crime-ridden,” “impoverished,” “broken,” and – one of our least favorite 4-letter words – “poor.”
But when we asked our partners in this particular neighborhood, they used our most favorite 4-letter word in community development – “home.” When they think about this neighborhood, they aren’t thinking about a ministry project, a social justice cause, or a problem to solve. They are thinking about, and I quote, “family” and “memories.”
If I have affectionate memories of a place, if the faces of my family come to mind when I hear the name of a place, if I consider a place home, then I will without a doubt approach the work of community development in a radically different way than if I see it as a broken thing needing my help. This isn’t to say the challenges aren’t significant or that there isn’t much work to be done. It just means that the work will take on a whole new meaning when we see a place as home, not as poor.
FCS’s time in Historic South Atlanta has been transformative over the last 20 years not just because of an innovative housing or business strategy but because it is home. Memories are here. Family and friends are here. Our heart, our hurts, and our hope is here.
So, with the best of southern hospitality in mind, we want to invite you to come on over and sit awhile. The pandemic means we gotta do this virtually, but we are still opening our home and neighborhood to you, our welcomed guests, for Open House on April 20-21 9:30 am -3 pm EST. We may not be able to serve you any sweet tea this time, but we can’t wait to share with you the work, the memories, and the ways the fabric of this place has been woven together.