In less than two miles I was in two worlds.
Tuesday started with my neighbors and I watching a house get destroyed. The house across from me, next door to my neighbors has been vacant since I moved onto Bachtel Ave. 2 years ago. My roommates and I joke that there are more rocks from our driveway on the roof and through the windows of that old, abandoned house then there are rocks remaining in our driveway.
And it was an eyesore. And it was a home for animals (raccoon and possum). And the foundation was bad (or so I was told). And the copper piping had probably long been stolen already. But this being the third house torn down over a five day period on Bachtel alone was still disheartening. It's a brown-dirt scab on an already injured street. I thought of Lamentations 1 "How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations! She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave.
However, my afternoon was spent at the University of Akron in a conference hosted by the Knight Foundation entitled "For the Love of Akron." We spent the afternoon designing shirts that captured the heart of Akron, perceiving the city through different eyes, and proposing plans to renew the city through art and civic leadership.
It was good. But made for a weird day.
My morning spent watching a house razed. My afternoon spent dreaming about the future of Akron. The contradiction was obvious to me and weighed on my spirit. The present reality of my city didn't match the desired future. And as encouraging as the conference was, my present concerns were left unanswered.
However, I doubt that the city or the Knight Foundation would even be able to answer my lament. I understand most of the economic and political issues at work in my neighborhood. Its easier to 'landbank' and reinvest into a neighborhood later. Not many of my neighbors vote or attend community meetings for change.
So the words of the prophet Isaiah were particularly relevant to me this week: (Isaiah 58:10-12)
If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. I like that. Because there are less and less dwellings on Bachtel every month. Summit Lake leads Akron in abandoned and vacant properties. And there is a clear effect on the neighborhood. I ask my neighbors what they think and there responses are usually sighs of 'what if.'
What if my family had moved in? What if they repaired the house? During the "For the Love of Akron" event, many artist's efforts to renew their city were displayed. One such artist Candy Chang from New Orleans developed "I Wish This Was" stickers
The stickers were posted all over New Orleans to express hope, despair, frustration, and potential.
I wish my street were full of good neighbors and not empty plots.
I wish there was a grocery store in walking distance.
I wish the school on the top of the hill wasn't unused and vacant.
I wish my street were a little more like Isaiah 58 and a lot less like Lamentations.