The View from My Study: By Matt Johnson

I’m sitting in my study, looking out the front window at my street--Waco Avenue! Catherine and I have lived on this street since 2008, and over these last seven years we’ve come to really love and appreciate our street. We didn’t realize it at first, but now we are increasingly aware that our street is special, even amazing! Our street is packed with caring neighbors who watch out for each other, share laughter, and care for one another. 

Waco Avenue sits on the Arkansas River which forms the western boundary of the South Central Neighborhood (we prefer to call it SoCe [as in sew-see]). SoCe is a neighborhood that is most identifiable for its problems. Issues like crime, drug and alcohol addiction, prostitution, homelessness and poverty are the words most people would link with our community. 

So when we decided to move here (inspired by the work of Shane Claiborne and Francis of Assisi) there were a few friends and colleagues who feared for our safety. Little did they (or we) know that instead of being in ministry to SoCe by living on Waco, instead it was the existing community that would be in ministry to us. It would be our neighbors who would teach us how to keep in touch with each other so you know what is happening. It would be our neighbors that would teach us that relationships will bring more joy than a high-paying job. It would be our neighbors who would teach us that looks can be deceiving and that a person’s history can be redeemed. 

Of course, we aren’t perfect. I would guess (and could mostly name) issues in each house along our street. And yet with our flaws and idiocyncrasies I see genuine beauty and love and giftedness. And that giftedness is what this is all about. 

We have started a non-profit called the SoCe Neighborhood Action Foundation and our goal is not to save the neighborhood, but instead to seek out and celebrate the giftedness of SoCe. Our goal is to find the treasures hidden in this field and bring them to the light. And our hope is that as we do so, we’ll learn a ton of stuff we don’t already know and we’ll be able to pass along that learning to others who are longing to look out their windows and see the good and beautiful world right on their street!