Make America Great Again

What I'm about to write has nothing to do with food or Celiac Disease. (If you've never visited my blog before, I'm a Celiac Disease advocate and I share about gluten-free food and Celiac Disease research & news.) It doesn't really have to do with politics either. I have a burden on my heart and this is my place to write out the random thoughts that are swirling in my head. So if you want to read on, thank you. If you don't, I understand that too. Just know that you have the power to change the world.

I live in Flint, Michigan. Maybe you've heard of our city. We've had an issue with our water lately. It might have been mentioned in the news. I think someone famous may have said something.

It's not easy living here sometimes. Us personally, the water isn't our biggest concern. We've been blessed that our house tested 0 ppb for lead and copper. I know that not all households are as lucky as we are. I try not to take that for granted.

There's a lot of violence here. It was here long before the water problem. In some neighborhoods it's horrendous, like a war zone. Teenagers killed. Caregivers murdered. Houses shot up.

The house across from us was shot at this past weekend. The story is people walked by and just opened fire on the house. It shook all of us up a bit, including the workers at the water distribution center. (During the Flint Water Crisis, there are sites around the city handing out free cases of water, filters and test kits.) The water center workers were concerned for everyone's safety, so they chose to shut down the distribution site for the rest of the day.

Later that night someone tried to set the same house on fire. My husband jokes that he's going to call our Jasmine "lifesaver" because somehow she sensed it, roused my husband, and he was able to call 911 as he saw the perpetrators leaving the scene. The fire died quickly as the fire department arrived. No one was hurt, and the property wasn't really damaged. My husband didn't sleep too well that night though.

Before people freak out and tell us to move, please know that this was not an act of random violence. There was a disturbance at said house earlier this week, some of it aggravated by the person living there, and I'm sure this was an act of retaliation. I don't believe that my husband and I are in any real danger. This is our home, and we're staying.

I'll admit my first thought was that I hope the resident moves. I want a quiet neighborhood, and I heard my heart saying "those people" should be forced to live elsewhere. You know, "those people" who seem to have a lot of drama in their life. It would make my life easier.

Which is ironic because the phrase "It's just easier" has become the bane of my existence.

And then, God pricked my heart. "Those people" are whom I'm supposed to reach. "Those people" are whom I'm supposed to love. "Those people" may have never had someone show them any other way of handling conflict or emotions. Maybe "those people" have been abused, mistreated, and have put up a wall saying that they'll never let anyone else get near them again.

It makes me think of the Israelites in the Old Testament. While God did give them certain guidelines about interacting with those who were not Jews, I still think they were meant to witness to those who were not God followers. While we're not to be "of the world", it doesn't mean that were not supposed to be "in it" dealing with the people that need to experience God's grace and direction. I need to experience God's grace and direction, so we're all the same.

There's a lot of violence in Flint, a greater percentage of violence than many other communities. It could make sense to leave, to move away, to go where life is less complicated. Sometimes based on the circumstances, it may be absolutely necessary. But when all of the people who could be a light choose to walk away, everything gets a little bit darker.

This is truth for everyone though. It's no secret that our world is messed up. I see it when the young mother is screaming profanity on her cell phone as she's walking down a busy street, with her 4 year old boy walking silently behind. We see it in cities where the meth epidemic is ruining families. We see it when drivers cut someone off in traffic, only to be followed by someone with road rage who shoots them. We see it when children are abducted in Africa, forced to turn into soldiers.

It can all seem so overwhelming. How can we even begin to make a difference?

With one little act of intentional kindness at a time.

Before the water distribution workers could set up today, a neighbor and their small children wrote the workers a love note in chalk. Nothing long and elaborate, just an intentional note letting them know someone is thinking of them. 

This is how we Make America Great Again. Not by government force or policies, but by choosing every day to make our communities a better place to live. It's not always convenient either. Maybe you'll have to pick up the trash someone left at the park. Maybe you'll have to clean up some graffiti at the local bus stop, even though you already have a "to-do" list. Maybe you'll have to reach out to that neighbor who has wronged you in some way, more concerned about peace than about revenge. Maybe you'll have to mow the lawn of the abandoned house down the street, because the landlord or bank hasn't taken care of it. Maybe it's something as simple as taking some flowers to a neighbor who's had a rough week. But just maybe, those little acts will add up to a huge difference.

My husband and I are are going to attempt to reach out to the person who lives across the street. I'm sure they had a pretty sleepless weekend. They might even feel a bit unwelcome after what happened, so they might be uneasy about someone approaching their door. Our interaction may be awkward. But I have to decide what type of community I want to live in. I want to live in a neighborhood where neighbors leave love notes for each other, even if it's in colored chalk.