I'm told my roots run deep in this city. One side of the family, years and years ago, were French Huguenots (so the story goes) who came to America for religious freedom. That side of the family came with a leg up and a silver spoon in hand. Maybe it wasn't easy in those pioneering days. I'm sure it was hard to land here and make a home away from home in an unknown land. But, I wonder if any of my ancestors played a part in encroaching on someone else's home. I'd like to ask them if their freedom meant taking someone else's. I will never know.
The other side immigrated from Ireland and worked hard to make a home. They found themselves in the fiery ovens in Sparrows Point, coming home covered in a layer of red dust every day. They took pride in their Irish family name and their family loyalty still packs a punch today. Don't mess with our family, for blood is thicker than truth.
My parents fell in love in theater school in the 70's. It was a wild time for two kids on opposite sides of the track to find each other in an environment where fictitious worlds were created on stage. Love was enough and quickly after, I was born. They moved into Baltimore City on a corner of York Rd where the building has since been torn down. My mom remembers spending her day by the window calling in the crime she'd see while nursing her new daughter.
My dad was a preacher man and my mom an artist, both with a flare for the theater. He had long hair and wore turtlenecks and corduroy jeans when he was in the pulpit, a radical move in the Baptist church in those days. My mom kept us kids occupied for hours in wooden pews by drawing all over the bulletins. I remember leafing through my mom's leather covered Bible looking and relooking at those sketches, time and time again.
Being a minister is akin to being in the military. We moved a lot in those early years. My dad went to seminary in Texas, took a mountain-church gig in Arkansas, started a house church based on the Anabaptist theology, joined an interdenominational community (that functioned more like a cult) and moved to Michigan, then, well...by then, we were burned out by Church stuff. I'll save that for another day. By the eighth grade, I had attended eight schools. As an extrovert, I didn't mind! The adventure of meeting new people was life to me. But, no matter where we moved, we kept coming back to this city.
You can take the girl out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the girl.
My husband and I moved into the city limits about fourteen years ago. We came here after we had traveled the world with our two year old on our back and our boys, hand in hand. We had adventure in our step and wondered why on earth God would have us buy a house in the city. We thought maybe He would use this as home base for us as He sent us around the world to continue to share His love. That would be a good plan, right?
As we settled in to city life, God quickly opened our eyes to the tick-tock beats of our city. I remember the first summer we lived in our house. We were drinking lemonade on our new front porch enjoying the sunshine and company of friends. Our five year old was running up and down the street with boundless energy. He bent over to examine something in the grass, then came running up the steps with a new found treasure in his hand exclaiming, "Look! I found a bag of candy!"
I glanced at my husband and he calmly turned to our son. "Come here and show it to me."
He handed the small, colored, one inch baggie to my husband filled with a powdery substance. My husband went right into a teaching moment. "Son, this is not candy, these are drugs. Drugs are bad for people and would hurt you if you ever took them. You did the right thing by showing this to me. If you ever see these again, please bring them to mommy and daddy first, okay?"
He looked up into his daddy's eyes with a mixture of worry and wonder, searching for the strength that only a dad's gaze can give. He drew peace from his dad and said, "Okay!" Then he ran down the steps to run off some more energy.
We knew at that moment we had two choices, we could live in fear in this city, or live with faith.