We saw several more houses over the weekend. We have seen many houses. It's reinforced over and over again that this town is entirely out of price range-that it will take a miracle to find a place that we can afford and will be sustainable. And in our shopping for homes, we are learning more about the town and it's different neighborhoods. While West Hartford is considered a suburb of Hartford - it has quite the urban feel. It's densely populated with a variety of neighborhood communities within it's lines. One neighborhood such as Elmwood has a completely different demographic than that if it's neighbor, Bishops Corner. There are clear boundary lines between these neighborhoods and we find that we must be quite sensitive to where God would have us start this work.
We have felt in our hearts for sometime that part of God's mission for us in West Hartford would include bridge building. Bridging the gap between those of different ethnicities, faiths, and socioeconomic statuses. This would be the overflow of the internal life change when one discovers who they are at the essence outside of their gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, family placement, career position, and more. As a person finds their identity in Christ, made in the image of their Creator, boundary lines fall and all that remains is a child of God loved by God and worthy of love from others. The overflow of this work is a bridge between you and I. Love now seems possible. Love now is necessary. Love becomes desired. It's a love that has hands and feet. It's a love that is not just spoken, but it's lived out loud.
I thought the bridge building would rise out of the lines between Hartford and West Hartford. And while I believe this will still be the case, the first bridges will be built within West Hartford itself. For a community who stands as the example for the fight of love and equality for all, it seems that there are limits to this between it's neighborhoods.
I don't dare pretend to understand it fully as we have only done research, and have only learned a little. But it is clear that there are some dividing lines between the neighborhoods and that they may not be pleasant.
We looked at two different houses yesterday in two very different neighborhoods of West Hartford. Our realtor has given us great information on the different areas and their demographics. We both agreed that we needed to be intentional about the neighborhood and that depending on where we landed would depend on how receptive people would be.
There are normally some dividing lines between cities and suburbs, between towns, but it surprised me that within the town itself there would be people that would not be receptive to us if we chose one neighborhood over the other. They are down the street from one another. They have the same address. This breaks my heart, because it seems it is primarily due to socioeconomic status.
Are we all equally deserving of love, belonging, and community? Or are their invisible lines we may cross depending on where we live or how much we make? We desire community and we fight for equality, but are there limits? We desire to GIVE out of our pocket to those with less, but do we give reaching over lines rather than stepping fully across the line to sit down and stay awhile - maybe even setting up camp. I do it. You do it. We all do it. Both sides do it.
We stopped at Starbucks on our way out from seeing the few homes. I decided to ask the barista, a young man who was probably in his late 20's and early 30's, about the present neighborhood. It is called Bishop's corner. It's clear by environment, median income from census data, and home prices that it is an upper middle class neighborhood. We were looking at a house that honestly looks like it was accidentally placed in the wrong neighborhood. It's a ranch, it's small. And it's half the price of most in that area. Which is why we were able to even consider it.
I asked the man if the neighborhood was family friendly. Did he enjoy living there, etc? He smiled and was very kind to answer my questions. He responded positively. He thought highly of Bishop's corner, its schools and people. He lives and works in the area, so he was qualified. He states there were no problems and the biggest complaint was the carriages that bumped into cars in the shopping centers.
I, then, asked him about a house that we saw located in the Elmwood neighborhood and I named the street. His face immediately changed, and he shook his head. He said he didn't know if that could even be considered West Hartford anymore and that if there was a low income area in WH that would be it.
We got our answer and he confirmed what we suspected and our realtor explained to us. I don't know if I can put this into words. What this does to our spirit, our soul. It's a killer. Because we have a burden for both people groups - those with money and those with not much. We know that God has called us to reach both. We know that we are supposed to bridge the gap. We know that they both need Jesus. We know it's possible.
But where do we start? We are those low income people. We are looking at a house there because that is all we can afford. In fact, that is the only area we have looked besides the one that looks accidentally placed in the higher income area. To think that it's not enough to be in West Hartford alone, that for most to be receptive-we can't be in that neighborhood? These are the questions and thoughts we must consider.
I feel an angst within me, an urgency to hear from God on this. When we saw the house in Elmwood, it felt so right. There were families out walking. It was a beautifully diverse group of people. We would much prefer to live there. The house in Bishops Corner was quiet, and the neighborhood didn't seem diverse. It breaks my heart to think that if we were to land in Elmwood, those from Bishop Corner may not consider us even part of West Hartford. What a risk that would be if we mean to reach both groups of people. Bridge the gap.
To bridge the gap, we must fill the gap. Whether we live in the lower income neighborhood and insist on reaching into the higher income - building relationships with both...or we live in the higher income and reach into the lower income - we will be the gap. God will have to direct us. He has the strategy, the relationships, the resources. He will guide us. Where our home will be is even more strategic than we thought.
This mission of God is not always simple. We can't just choose what we think seems right, feels right, or is logical. God's purposes and plans are not always straightforward and logical. Erratic, difficult, and crazy often define God's ways. Yet, will we move slowly, sensitively?
Fight the gap. Bridge the gap. Fill the gap. God will show us what that looks like.