We live on the wrong side of the tracks.
We also live on the wrong side of the bridge.
And on the wrong side of the river.
If people are familiar with Minneapolis, then they usually ask, "Where do you live?" Our response is, "We live in North" the nickname and location of living on the wrong side of...well...everything.
And their look is always the same. One of fear, sadness, pity. That is the most common response. One I was used to when I would tell people I lived near Detroit. I've been getting that look my whole life. Now there are some who love North Mpls. Just like in any urban dwelling there are friends and neighbors who love to create an urban/hipster/artist/liberal/earth conscious environment in the city. We would fall into that category. But eventually, every person who lives in an urban setting, and one that is known for its long history of crime and abuse, needs to ask,
How long can I live here and still be safe?
As I sit here and write at 2pm in the afternoon, a dear friend of ours is fixing our back door because our home was broken into for the fifth time. And yes, we do have a security system. We got that after our house was cleaned out 10 years ago at Christmas and vandalized to a disturbing degree. With the system in place, we have had four more assaults. (And this is just the personal attacks, whereas our neighborhood is a place of high activity for random shootings, murders, robberies and rape. And by neighborhood, I mean our street and back alley. It is a normal occurrence for friends at parities of ours to come away with some sort of ghetto hood tale to retell when they leave.) I hesitate to write this because 1. It makes me feel like the girl in an abusive relationship who doesn't know when to leave because she finds an excuse after every attack to stay. Or 2. We will have even more people joining the campaign to tell us to leave. I understand, we should move, but truly, I don't want to hear it. That isn't what this post is about. And I don't want you to feel sorry for us. Everyone has struggles in their life, and currently, our neighborhood is ours. This isn't a contest to see how scary and sketchy our hood is compared to yours, its just our reality. Simple.
When we first moved into our home there was a host of friends who lived in the hood. There was talk about how it was a hard place to live, but everyone had hope that it would it would get better. Slowly, friends were moving away because the crime was hitting closer and closer to home. And yet, we have remained. People have slowly been giving up hope that anything will change in North. That no matter how many young families move in and improve their home, make a life for themselves, they will eventually get scared off and move away. The others that stay can't afford to leave and so they hunker down in their homes and don't participate in the improvement of the hood. That was our neighbors story for 30 years, until the tornado came and claimed their house, forcing them to leave.
Five years ago the Lowry Bridge got shut down for repairs and then eventually was blown up to be replaced by a beautiful bridge that was stronger and sturdier than before. The Lowry bridge is one of the main veins that runs from North Mpls to NE Mpls. Before the bridge went down, NE Mpls was considered the crime epicenter of our area. After the bridge went down, it got locked down and concentrated in North. Crime has since remained and flourished where we live, whereas, NE has become the "New It" place to be. It's been interesting to watch the transformation of NE Mpls and how the art scene has exploded there. Old buildings have turned into art warehouses, co-ops have started, small creative consignments shops have started, coffee shops and local cafe's decorate dozens of corners. Tourists visit Uptown Mpls, locals who know the inside tract hang out in NE, and many are too afraid to come to North.
You can tell that locals here are excited and anticipating the shift of culture for North. They are hoping that with the bridge opening, which it did this last fall, that the good things that are happening in NE will make its way into our little area. The warehouse district is also spreading closer and closer to our area. We are only two miles from downtown and the warehouse district is the "New It" place to live. So on the other side of the bridge is the New place to be, and the other side of the Highway is the New place to live. Old buildings are being resurrected. Art and co-ops and small business are popping up all over. New life is being breathed into the areas surrounding us, and we wonder,
Can it infiltrate, or will it just compound and lock the crime into our hood?
Two years ago our neighborhood was hit by a tornado. Though it sounds terrible, and in the moment it was, it has given a face lift to home after home in our area. For 18 months what was a war zone has turned into a mosaic of beautiful homes. In my mind, this can only serve to help North siders feel proud of our little hood. However, we get nervous to hope. To hope that things can turn around. To hope that our little hood in Mpls could be a safe place to be after hoping for more than 10 years.
Last summer was the hardest on our family. Crime has slowly moved closer and closer to our home. A few years back a girl was murdered in front of our home on the corner. Two summers ago, I was trampled down by the S.W.A.T. team breaking down our neighbors door looking for stolen weapons. Last spring while making breakfast we watched the police throw smoke bombs in the home across the alley from us and bring out 5 hostages. But last summer, in the middle of the night, gunshots and bullets rang out in our backyard and alley. It brings on a whole new dimension when your husband dives over your body to protect you from stray bullets. It's when I truly felt scared for the first time. Things shifted for me then.
How long can you hold out hope that things will change? 10 years ago things were supposed to be looking better for North Mpls, and yet, to me it just feels like it has gotten worse. Everywhere I turn in my neighborhood there are bars on the windows, gates on the doors, graffiti on the walls and garbage on the street. So many homes are boarded up and abandoned. When I drive my kids to school passing business after business gated to protect themselves, I think, what do my children see? How do I explain to my children that our home got broken into...again... without inflicting fear in them? How do I create a safe place for them, when our safe place has been robbed? When the evidence of vandalism is all over our broken back door? How do I reassure them that they are OK, when I am not even sure I believe it myself.
Today I realized how often my spirit is ready for battle. I live in a neighborhood where before I leave the house now, EVERY time I leave the house, I need to brace our backdoor with a 2x4 wood beam. I need to be on guard to keep my family safe, while at the same time resting in trust that God is bigger than our fear.
I want to hope that things are going to be better where I live. I want to hope that I could feel safe in my home. Right now my spirit is uneasy as I look at our open drawers that were rummaged through and my bed that was moved around by men who robbed us. My personal space was invaded again. Strangers were looking and tearing through our stuff. And somehow I become distanced from that because, well, its happened before.
This whole post is jumbled in thoughts. It is fearful and somewhat hopeful that all the good things happening around us could finally come and be apart of us in our neighborhood instead of always just being slightly out of reach. We live in this confusing place of protecting ourselves, but trying to let go and trust. Looking over our shoulders waiting for the next attack, but trying not to let fear dictate everything we do. And finally raising children who see God's goodness in everything.
Living in the hood felt very personal today, and somehow I had let my guard down. I want to only see the good things happening around us. The parkway coming to our street, all the community gardens, the park parties. But I'm not gonna lie, lately, all I see are the bars on the windows and the drug deals happening in the cars in front of our house. My heart is heavy with the lack of hope I felt today.
When you start to feel hopeless, you realize how important hope is. We need to have hope. We need to be able to believe. Believe that God is still good. Believe that people can choose love instead of hate. Believe that people can change. Hope that sin and hurt won't overtake a city.
When the kids and I talked about the break in today, we prayed for the young men who broke into our home. And I guess that is what I am asking from you. We as a family need your prayers. Prayers to head God's direction for our lives. Prayers for my children that we as a family can talk about this, but that they won't live in fear. Prayers that Paul and I can help our children understand. Prayers that hatred and bitterness would not claim our hearts and home. Prayers that we won't loose hope. But prayers especially for the young men and women, not only in North but all over the world that choose hatred and anger, and retaliation for the hurt they are struggling with. Hatred breeds hatred. Those that choose to hurt others are deeply hurt themselves, and need our prayers.
Close friends and family asked me today how I was doing. They showed concern and I am so thankful for them. I guess this post is my response. A jumbled, confusing, scattered response. But that is how I feel right now. Jumbled. Confused. Scattered.
Update: Sometimes I forget how far these posts go. Sometimes I write because I need to process what is happening in our lives, and I forget that there are hundreds of you reading it. Thank you so much for the outpouring of love that you showed me in the last 12 hours. Thank you for your prayers, and your kind words. Thank you to my friend who showed up today at my door to visit with me over coffee. I love being apart of the Church. The church that lives in the hearts and soul of the people I am honored to call friends and for those I have never met face to face but pray for us anyway. I want you to know that God has used you all to encourage me and find strength in my trust in our Lord.
There is so much I love about where we live, and it was never my intent to degrade North Mpls. What I will do is give an honest opinion about the fact that here, in this urban setting, we have the gift of daily surrendering our control to God. We are taught and challenged to trust. We don't sit comfortably and safe in our home, but many times I see that as a gift. Yesterday I just didn't want the gift. I also want to say that we never moved here to this neighborhood to do "ministry". We do however believe in living as Christ like examples wherever we are, wherever we live, wherever we work. So we try to shine brightly here. And when the time comes and we are able to move, we would like to venture a bit more out into the country. But even if we still decided to move today, we would remain here until our home sold and all was in order, which means we still live in a tension of fear and trust.
Thank you for being being with us. For loving us and for walking through life with us.