Much of my job involves listening to and talking with people who reside in the local community.
We encouraged residents to reach out to one another.
“How many of you know one person you can ask for help?”
All eleven residents raised their hands.
“How many of you know two?”
Three people lowered their hands.
“How many of you know three?”
Three more residents’ hands went down.
“How many of you know five?”
I looked around the room. Everyone’s hands were lowered.
Then, as a conversation began, one resident emphasized, “I don’t ask anybody for help.”
I visited a woman who is almost 90 years old.
She lives in a mansion-like home in the heart of Roxbury, a Boston neighborhood with a high concentration of poverty.
She answered the door and slowly escorted me into the living room.
“This is a beautiful home,” I said.
“Thank you. I brought this house almost 30 years ago.”
It looked like she lived alone.
I sat on the couch. She sat in a chair across from me.
“How can I help you?” she asked.
I was there to talk with her about my new job. But instead, I soon found myself asking her questions about the 1970’s.
She answered, “The community was full of severe poverty, prostitution, drug abuse and distribution, and gang violence.”
Then, with pride she shared, “This neighborhood’s been revolutionized!”
It was difficult to imagine how she saw the neighborhood as a dramatic improvement.
She remembered the riots after Martin Luther King was murdered.
She remembered busing.
She remembered black kids running home from school, chased by white kids with rocks.
“We’ve come a long way,” she said.
Her perspective of the neighborhood differed from that of other residents.
She caused me to pause.
I sit at the kitchen table of many families.
They all need help.
“Why do you stay in the neighborhood”?
Everyone’s answer is different.
One woman said her mother left her house to her.
Another woman said, “I can’t afford to live anywhere else.”
And a young man answered with a rhetorical question, “Why leave?”