The Story Behind Your Place

Our block in 1959

Our block in 1959


Instead of entering our places with solutions, we need to come asking important questions about its past

We must take on the posture of curious question askers instead of problem solvers if we desire to have long-term impact in our places

Are you a character in the story of your neighborhood? We must move beyond being observers and reporters in our places to become characters and contributors, as we do so, we come to appreciate the characters around us

Often people are willing to stay and dig in, but they have never been challenged to do so

There is incredible power when people discover a common love for their place
— Chapter 3


In a sea of buildings and people, in the midst of the the hustle of New York, it is easy to lose the trees for the forest. [how is that for mixed metaphors]

Seriously though, in a city as big as New York, with all there is to see and do, we can lose sight of the fact that this city is made up of people.  People with history, people with stories and particularly with stories to tell about our city and our neighborhood. There is the Puerto-Rican grandmother who sits on her stoop every afternoon as the kids come home from school and the old man who sits on the corner with his lawn-chair to watch the world go by, all with stories to tell about the history of how things were and the way they would want things to be, of tragedy and joy that have taken place on the blocks where we live. 

For us this discovery started by simply saying hi to our dear friend Ralph every Sunday after church as we walked home.  Over the years this has progressed to the point where Ralph has a copy of my car key and is glad to move my car for street sweeping days.  And more than that, Ralph having lived in our neighborhood for a long time has so many stories to tell about the way things were and the way things are and I'm always learning more about my neighborhood by just slowing down to say 'hi' and listen to this sweet, generous and kind man.


So as we think about the places we live, who are the characters that make up the unique mosaic of our block?

What can we do to hear from them? Listen to them?

Consider going to the library [there will be characters there] and take out a book about your city, to learn about its past and its story

The things we enjoy and that bless and serve us in our city and neighborhood are often there through the hard work of many who have blazed the trail before us.  As we learn and discover our community's past, it can have a wonderful way of helping us appreciate it's present and even pray for its future and that when our place starts to feel like home.