Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why Becky Stayed

Recently, I asked Becky Imig to write about why she stayed in the neighborhood in which she served as a Hollywood Dweller in 2002-03. Here is an excerpt from her answer:

As time moved on I found myself feeling more alive, awake, aware, and also burdened. I was processing so many urban issues that were new to me: immigration, homelessness, poverty, gang violence, teen dropouts, overcrowded urban schools, illiteracy, teen pregnancies, abuse, and much more. This was definitely the other side to Hollywood, the side less visible to the world. There was a daily struggle of so many people just trying to make it. I had never before lived in a neighborhood where my neighbors were: illegal immigrants living in constant fear (of deportation, of being separated from their families, of being taken advantage of at work and not being able to speak out), facing predatory landlords and unjustifiable evictions; families crammed and living together in one bedroom apartments; kids sleeping on couches or on the floor; parents working two to three jobs to pay the rent; parents illiterate in their home language and unable to help their children with their homework; parents that didn’t speak English and needed help translating mail or phone calls left on their answering machines; families separated from their kids with no “papers” to bring their child(ren) across the border; parents sending 1/3 of their paychecks to their relatives living in Central America; immigrants eager to learn English; and parents who feared stepping foot into their child’s school because it was too intimidating and scary. Over time (and tears), I was discovering that living a life of service meant caring about the issues that oppress, objectify, and hurt others. I was learning that living in community meant creating safe places for people to feel themselves, places where people could relax and receive love, places free of judgment, and places of true comfort.

From September to June my Latino neighborhood had become more “normal” and less shocking. My days were spent tutoring elementary kids after school, teaching adults English, practicing Spanish, hosting Community Nights for the neighborhood, and buying fruits and veggies out of a produce truck. But my favorite times were coming together with the neighborhood women to share our lives over coffee and pan dulce (sweet bread). I heard their stories about their countries, their families, their losses, and their dreams. These were women of extreme faith and hope. They had found joy in the midst of their sorrow, hope in the midst of their fear, and peace in the midst of their anxiety. They shared their gifts with me and blessed me with their hospitality. God was at work in my neighborhood and I had come to love it so much. I had discovered that this was the place that I wanted to stay. The thought of saying good-bye to the kids, youth, and families I had gotten to know so well was difficult to think about. I was feeling called to the city and loved that feeling of God expanding my heart. I think I chose to stay because I had discovered that living in community is part of our transformation and God was surely at work in transforming my life.

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