Just nine days before Christmas in 2006, our family moved to a new neighborhood. Well, actually, we moved to a neighborhood that was new to us. You see, the neighborhood where we moved was one of Fresno, California’s oldest neighborhoods. This neighborhood in particular, like many others in Fresno, had been left behind. Due to its high rates of poverty and violent crime, it had eventually become known as “The Devil’s Triangle.”
Christmas was quiet, New Year’s was loud, and before January came to an end, in the silence of night, someone was stabbed to death behind our home. “What have we done?” we asked ourselves. Our daughter was only ten months old and she had already been exposed to murder; the chaos of the neighborhood regularly interrupted her sleep. We wondered: can anything good come out of “The Devil’s Triangle?”
A family of five lived a few doors down from us. Over the coming months we discovered that the family included two boys who were active gang members. On more than one occasion these boys were involved in major fights on our street and alley, and their conduct affected our sense of safety and security. However, over time our relationship with this family deepened, as did our relationship with our neighborhood.
As we learned each other’s names, shared jokes, and exchanged skills and knowledge, we began to see this family through different eyes. We chose to walk in our neighborhood rather than drive. We took our dogs to the neighborhood park instead of to the safer or cleaner park across town. We observed the friendships that are forged around a common geographic identity. We began to also see our neighborhood through different eyes.
We learned that perhaps the reason we questioned if anything good could come from here was because we did not have eyes to see that there is good everywhere. We were so blind. We had eyes but couldn’t see that amidst the violence and chaos there was also good.
The family who lived a few houses down became our close friends. The youngest son helped us refinish windows in a historic home in the neighborhood. The stepdad helped us diagnose a problem with our vehicle. The daughter babysat our child. Rici, in turn, mentored her. We counseled the family through their relational dysfunction. The youngest son’s 15-year-old girlfriend took a pregnancy test in our bathroom and Rici was the first to hold the secret of a new baby until she felt ready to share the news. Phil visited the oldest son in jail. He visited this same son in the hospital as he recovered from a gunshot wound to the stomach. And it was this gunshot wound that prompted this son to pause, reflect, and reevaluate his life.
This is one story of one family. And over the years the triangle that was once associated with the Devil has, to us, become associated with good things. Can anything good come out of here? Yes, because there is good everywhere.
Do you ever feel hopeless about your community? Have you ever looked around and thought, “What good can come from here?” How can you adjust your vision, if necessary, to see the good in your neighborhood?