by Diane Miller
After sojourning as a Ccd mama in blended urban environs over 2 decades, I have gathered some tips to encourage others on their journey of living different, whether simply beginning or well on the way (for background: what’s a Ccd mama ~ first 5 tips: Ccd Mama Immersion Tips 1 – 5 ). Following are tips 6 – 10:
6) Commit to watch your spoken & written words… Words are powerful with both positive & negative value. They also mean different things to different people dependent on context & culture. Work to use words that are not polarizing, but honoring. Culture often changes from house to house, not neighborhood to neighborhood, or region to region (as it used to). For instance, I can use the word ‘hood to describe most of the beloved neighborhoods in my hometown Chicago while speaking with other Chicagoans. However, 20 miles out in the suburbs, someone might wonder what I was talking about using that slang word to describe my home area. Also, when I tried to use the word with friends in suburban LA, the results were devastating. My friends received my words as an insult in the context of the conversation ~ uh oh!
7) Have a “safe place” group of friends… Have people to check in with who understand your heritage, lifestyle posture & are open to honoring your journey. You need friends who will listen without you fearing chastisement or a rebuttal in what you might be dealing with or doing. These safe place folks should simply & lovingly listen, question your intentions for context, and dialogue with you for good support. They do not have to solve or fix anything for you, but simply be a sounding board. They should be individuals that have done a fair amount of life with you and commit to prayer for you. They also might have a similar perspective, or not, giving different insight &/or perspective to your scenario.
8) Commit to actions based in love & collaboration with a desire to promote justice for all… Listen & learn about the good God has going on in your neighborhood, also discerning what possible barriers exist preventing people from having hope. Who are the people of peace already working in your neighborhood? Their shining services and stories of goodwill are your sign. Think about how you could possibly work with them in some way to collaborate for the good of all your neighbors, journeying with others in your community (your piece of geography that gives you your sense of belonging). For example, there is a social service agency in my neighborhood that is great at working with people to find both housing and jobs. I have begun to job mentor/coach at their office one day a week. It has given me immense insight into both what God is doing in our urban ‘hood and what systemic injustice, or barriers, exist barring people from having hope to find a good job, home or good food.
9) Make connections with others to share resources in your neighborhood …for jobs, affordable apartments, transportation and any other possible needs that can empower people down the path of living a full life. Poverty is a lack of connections, it’s not just a money issue. When I volunteer at my neighborhood agency, I see people that do not know many potential job opportunities existing for them within a 5 mile radius. They simply have not been out of their neighborhood except to travel to & from previous jobs or visit family & friends ~ that’s it. My previous career in sales took me all over the city, calling on businesses for 16 years. So, I know a lot of possible employers to suggest to my clients to help expand their job search. It is a small thing; however, we all only know what we know; and that can be very limiting in a job or home search without a connection to open a door elsewhere. If you are barely making it in a minimum wage job or two, you typically will not have time or money to do extra activities or travel anywhere outside of your necessary life routines &/or neighborhood. Quite frankly, extra travel & activities is a luxury afforded primarily to those with more money & time!
10) Keep your movement going through praying, listening & loving well… modeling that life in a totally blended community (not stacked wealth or stacked poverty) can break down the throws of poverty forever. This lifestyle can be done by any person simply willing to listen and create opportunities through understanding others & giving hope for a prosperous future to all. It is also more fulfilling, as we do know that it is always more blessed to give. Our biggest American lifestyle challenges as resourced people can be weeding out American consumerism, limiting our “going & doing”, and being okay with not being “more” comfortable! That is also why prayer is so intertwined into all of my tips… we must be willing to be still, meditate on scripture & continually listen for God’s whispers.
Quite simply, we learn a lot of life skills based on our individual personal cultural norms with our family of origin and superiors at church, school & work. However, our “normal” ways can many times be a hindrance in meeting others where they are at in their circumstances. Globalization now gives us exposure to many cultures and different ways. What one has experienced in their individual life will rarely be the same as anyone else. Stopping to understand how others live and suffer takes a commitment to live deep in any neighborhood community. You have to spend concentrated time there, ask questions, listen well and build relationships with others that have a very different “normal” from yours.
It takes prayer, grit and commitment to press in, understand your own heritage, discover your gifts/mission and move forward to develop true blended community. Many of us in quickly fading white dominant culture can be particularly opinionated and entrenched in our ways because our culture has controlled a lot of what happens in both U.S. business and church world for a long time. We can always be ready to give advice, or expect things our way ~ I own it! … However, if we all took a blended lifestyle step forward in faith to unstack poverty we could change a lot of things in the U.S., world & our own lives.
May you be encouraged, create your own model as God leads & go for it… and may your brokenness be redeemed through relationships in community, choosing to live different!