Coming to work with CCC last September meant more than just a new job for me. It meant a greater ability to do what I love. It meant the chance to learn from other community leaders, not just trial-and-error. And it meant a long transition. Construction of the new house will begin this fall, and CCC is currently in the process of working out final details with partners. Even though the new College Heights Friendship House will be less than two miles away from where Arielle and I live, moving will be a major transition. For now, that leaves me living between two neighborhoods: living in Stevenson while working in College Heights; saying a long goodbye to Cockerell while trying to develop relationships on Orange; finding partners to pass things off and finding partners for new initiatives.
Last week I sat around a small table with people who care about Abilene in their various roles, and the conversation turned to Stevenson. These were experienced people, educated people, but at that point everyone else turned to me for details and insight about the neighborhood. I was humbled because I know that six years is not enough time to become an expert on anything, especially something as dynamic as a neighborhood. But at the same time, my comments were based on experience, and this table was looking to glean from what I knew. It felt as if the act of developing roots in Stevenson was bearing fruit. I have invested time in learning an area and a group of people, and it was paying off there as I relayed what I have learned.
After this, the idea of leaving Stevenson left me sad. You might be thinking, “What’s the big deal? You’re not even moving 2 miles away.” But this work is all about people, and if I could adequately be a part of people’s lives two miles away, then I wouldn’t move in the first place. Everything I know about community and about development I learned from this group of people. Yet I can see that on the whole, this is a natural transition. A year ago, as life as became busier, neighborhood work in Stevenson was becoming more difficult. Moving to College Heights with CCC is a vocational door that allows me to consider Abilene-wide issues while still keeping a relational focus. Also, work in Stevenson will continue after we're gone through another crew of crazy students willing to listen to their neighbors. (You can read about their adventures here and here.)
The time will soon come to uproot—no, to transplant to our new neighborhood. There is a difference.When you transplant a tree, you don’t just take the tree and its roots. In order to keep it alive, you have to take some of the original dirt with you.* Uprooting is about leaving; transplanting is about the new location. I have been growing in rich soil, but the best of it is so tangled up in my roots, I’ll have to take it with me.
*You could say that this between-neighborhoods transition is like root-pruning, done several months before transplant, which “shortens long roots and encourages the formation of many new roots closer to the trunk, which help bind the soil during transplant.”