Reconnecting People | Once a property has been restored, Urban Homeworks works to connect neighbor to neighbor to create a livable, robust community with a strong sense of home. The result is a rich exchange between households that reweaves a sense of community through day-to-day activities.
Orignal story written by Cody Schimelpfenig, Published October 17, 2007
I had a blast from the past today, and it rocked me.
I saw a kid standing at the Youth Enterprise office door, and we had one of those unspoken "Hey, I know you" moments of recognition.
"Hey, Cody." I was playing through my mental list of neighborhood kids I had met over the years, but my "search function" is awfully slow. Then it clicked...it was Johnny.
Johnny was the kid who lived downstairs when I first moved into south Minneapolis as an Urban Neighbor. His mother was a hardworking single mom with 5 kids. I remember in the morning she would take a taxi at 5:30 AM to the 'burbs for her job. She asked if we could make sure the kids got out the door for school. At 7 AM, Johnny would be feeding his brother, ironing his clothes, getting ready to go to elementary school…at age 8.
What a clash of realities. When I was an 8 year old kid, growing up in the sheltered lap of middle-class white America, my mom's biggest existential concerns [God bless her] were whether or not it was safe for me to ride my bike to school because the road shoulder was not ideal in width, or if I'd crack my head open jumping my BMX bike off of homemade jumps (I'll give her that one).
After Johnny and I parted ways, it hit me. I felt a stirring…a joy to see Johnny involved with something really good (Youth Enterprise's mission is "equipping youth living in urban communities with relevant life and business skills grounded in the hope of Christ"). But entwined with the warm-fuzzies was a deeper feeling. Not a whole lot different than that stuff that churns around in you when you run into an “ex”... you know there was a shared history or connection where you shared some really good stuff. And some really NOT so good stuff.
I cut my “urban teeth” those first years in that house, and I hope I didn’t leave too many bite-marks in the process. Those years kicked my butt in many ways…but for the better. Those years, and that family, lit the fire under the cauldron of my own racial attitudes, white privilege stuff, arrogant classist assumptions, etc. Since then, this white-boy's cauldron has reached the boiling point. I am refining. In many ways I am NOT the same Cody I was an Urban Neighbor. Thanks be to God…and thanks be to Johnny.
Cody and Johnny’s family continue to bump into one another. Today, Johnny is in his 20’s and has a beautiful daughter of his own. With 20 years behind us at Urban Homeworks, the lessons, no matter how old, still resonate through us.