In a couple years I will have lived in this city for 10 years. When I moved here right out of college the jokes about Independence were about as abundant as traffic on Noland Rd. Everything from the quality of our schools, to crime, to the people, to the general consensus that Independence was simply a city not as good as its neighbors. Economic development, commercialization, housing — the glory days had come and they were now most definitely gone.
I’ll admit that since living here I’ve delivered just as many cheap shots towards the city of Independence as the next person. For awhile I felt I could, after all, I do live here. But for all the jokes, all the put downs, the snide “under your breath” remarks, I began to feel uneasy. Over the last year or so as the comments rolled on, I’ve had this odd, unexpected feeling. As best as I can describe it, a simultaneous sense of anger and hurt. What is this all about? I mean…really?
It turns out that Independence is the city I’ve begun to love. And the simultaneous anger and hurt I occasionally feel is because I care about my city. The rich, the poor, the somewhere in the middle. The schools, the businesses, the neighborhoods. My neighborhood. My neighbors. The ones we do know and ones we don’t know. The guy who police chased through our streets a few weeks ago and the Liberty Tax guy who shares a corner with the T-Mobile guy. These are my people. This is my city.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the importance of caring for our cities, let alone our neighborhoods. The very people who should care the most, the people who live in a city, throw rocks and condemn it. When Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” He wasn’t giving you the right to be selective. Your neighbor isn’t just the people you know, the people you go to church with, the people you work with. Your neighbor is your literal neighbor, the girl at the checkout counter, the guy who cut you off, the family with the crazy kids at Pizza Street and the elderly woman who is unfamiliar with the 35mph flow of traffic. Everyone in your city is your neighbor.
There is too much need in this city, too many opportunities, too many people that have never experienced true unconditional love to have one of their own toss another rock on the pile of insults, put-downs and mockery. If the people in a city don’t care about it, no one else will.
So if you don’t love the city you live in — begin the process of searching out how to love it. If you can’t or don’t want to, move to a city you can. Regardless of your property taxes, your shopping districts, your home value, or schools no city is exempt from its challenges. And every city needs the people within it to love unconditionally.