Citizens on Patrol
Back when I was a kid (just a few years ago, really), I was a fan of the Police Academy movies. I believe it was Police Academy IV was the subtitled "Citizens on Patrol". It was about these citizens getting trained by the police on general safety and self-defense. Of course, it was hilarious!
All summer, our neighbor has mentioned to us that she is participating in a program this summer where neighborhood citizens are walking around the neighborhood to help promote safety. It's a great idea. It helps us know our neighbors. It helps us identify the "problem" houses. This walk was not about who hadn't cut their lawn or anything like that. In fact, I think there is another walk for that purpose.
Anyway, last week, I finally got to join my neighbor and another neighborhood resident in walking around. I heard about some of the problems that the neighborhood has faced. I also heard some anecdotal evidence that the walking program was working. At a minimum, the graffiti and petty crime was moving to other nearby neighborhoods. Of course, we don't just want to shift the problem. They were discussing trying to start similar programs in the other neighborhoods so that the petty crime didn't just shift.
Understanding our role in the community is important to urban spirituality. The city is not a place for individuals who don't want to interact with others. The city is for people who feel a connection to the community. Just like a church, the neighborhood claims each resident as a shaping part of the neighborhood. There are always problems with each neighborhood, just like there are problems with every congregation.
When people are willing to reach out to one another and care for one another, then we see the hand of God in action. My walking friends are pretty bold about chatting with people who were on their front lawn. They wanted folks to know who they were and what they were doing. They want to see the whole neighborhood healthy, and they understand that each person's wellbeing is important to the neighborhood's survival.
Sometimes (I still struggle with this idea), I think that salvation works the same way. I've heard someone say, "We all go to Heaven together, or we don't go at all." What if that were true? It would make us think about "the least of these" in a totally different way. It means that we have to care about the people around us in a very profound way.
I give my props to the Northeast Citizen Patrol and their effort. May they teach me to care about my neighborhood, and its residents, the same way they do.