Won’t you be my Radical Neighbor?

Mormon’s have a great pioneer heritage.  Extermination orders, tarring and feathering, rape and destruction will do that to a people.  Many do not realize that Joseph Smith and the LDS religion originated in upstate New York.  Only after being chased across the nation, did Brigham Young and the main body of “saints” end up in Salt Lake.

My mother’s people were Utah pioneers.  My father was and still is his own kind of pioneer.  He left his family and much of his upbringing in order to convert to Mormonism when he was 19.  So, perhaps I come by it naturally.

We (yes, I still say “we”, get over it) even teach our wee children this song:

  1. . You don’t have to push a handcart,
    Leave your fam’ly dear,
    Or walk a thousand miles or more
    To be a pioneer!
  2. You do need to have great courage,
    Faith to conquer fear,
    And work with might for a cause that’s right
    To be a pioneer!
    Words and Music by Ruth Muir Gardner, 1927–1999.

Faith to conquer fear.  Work with might for a cause that’s right.

I’ve been looking at houses.  Very old and dilapidated houses.  In areas where there has been white flight, no gentrification or urban renewal and with forgotten and failing schools.

baltimore home one
This is the place.

When my realtor and I entered one “home” I am considering, there was obvious crack paraphernalia scattered about, along with condoms and other dubious leave-behinds.  As we exited the property, two men (one with no shoes) who appeared homeless, or at the very least, unwashed, were approaching.  As they passed, the man with no shoes smiled, exhibiting definite meth mouth, and complimented my red cowboy boots.  The men then disappeared into a nearby property.

I shared all of the home and neighborhood with a trusted and wise friend, who commented  that I could be just what this neighborhood needs.  That I could be a pioneer, but that she didn’t know if she wanted that pioneer to be me, understandably so.

Let’s just call this what it is:  I am a single white woman who lives alone, and safety is always a consideration.  Safety should be a consideration for everyone, and crime happens no matter where you are.  That being said, I recognize the need for prudence and awareness.  However, I refuse to live a life dictated by fear.

I came home, and started praying, thinking, meditating, dreaming, mulling and stewing.  I just could not get this little home and neighborhood out of my head.  My leanings do not, as a rule, tilt toward the stupid, naive, or blindly altruistic.  There are, of course, exceptions, but I try to keep a reasonable head on my shoulders, especially in matters of home, family, and finance.

The next morning, the first TED Talk that cued up on my walking playlist was THIS.

Drew Philp, a young Detroit native and recent college graduate, spoke of wanting to “help”, make a difference,  and be a pioneer in the dying and abandoned areas of Detroit.  He had been studying the works and words of american philosopher, Grace Lee Boggs (who happened to live in Detroit) who said,

grace lee boggs

“The most radical thing that I ever did was to stay put.”

So, Philp decided to stay put, and purchased a 500 dollar home in Detroit, and went to work.  What he wasn’t expecting was, his neighbors went to  work by his side.  Rather than being a savior or pioneer, Philp found himself blessed to become a part of an, “incredibly resourceful, incredibly intelligent and incredibly resilient community. It was there he first experienced the power of radical neighborliness.”

So, I am going back to the little crack house.  I’m going to knock on doors and meet the neighbors.  I mean, if it’s good enough for Mr. Rogers, surely, it’s good enough for Ms. Hall.

Light and Love,

BL

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