On slivers of that Kingdom Come.

Friends, how often are you around people who are different than you? A heavy question for a Wednesday morning, I know. But follow me through this thought, no?

I went to this coffee shop not too far from my house a couple nights ago. I like to go because there are big tables where I can spread out and work. This week I brought my nephew. He's in 7th grade so he brought his homework and at those big tables he worked and I wrote.

My nephew and I, we both live in a mostly Mexican neighborhood. And by mostly Mexican I mean that when we see someone who isn't Mexican, one of us inevitably asks, "Where did he/she come from? I wonder what they're doing here" and crane our necks to watch where they go.

Segregation is here in Chicago. Sure there's lots of different kinds of people, but there's also lots of different neighborhoods for those lots of people and rarely do they mix. The neighborhood of that coffee shop we went to is mostly Black and there are these train tracks that run between my neighborhood and the coffee shop neighborhood. This side is Mexican and that side is Black. And everyone knows and mostly everyone sticks to their own neighborhood.

A few years back, I used to live in that coffee shop neighborhood.  And I'd walk down the street and people would look at me with that "What's she doing?" look. One time, the cops pulled over to see if I was lost. I was on my way to the grocery store down the street from my house. But there are two assumptions when you're somewhere where you "shouldn't" be. Drugs or lost. And because I wear a Gap jacket and loafers, I must be lost. It breaks my heart for those who don't land on the "lost" side of judgment.

But right there on that line between my old neighborhood and my new neighborhood, there's this church. And they started a health center and now a coffee shop. And in that coffee shop, there are lots of different kinds of people. And those people even interact with each other. They work on projects together and eat together. And they laugh and lean in close to share ideas. And they spread out on those big tables and stay for hours.

Maybe you have to live here to know how beautifully magical that is. How profound a miracle because you know how rarely this happens. Or maybe you live somewhere like this so you know. You know.

I don't much discuss religion, but there is something truly Kingdom Come about that space. I think that when we see God (or whomever you perceive God to be), I think we'll see little pieces of each of those different kinds of people. And I think that if we're not spending time with those different kinds of people now, we are missing out now. On beauty. On knowledge. On slivers of that Kingdom Come. On wow and I never even knew. Each culture, language, immersion, friendship, misunderstanding, difficult conversation, compassion, patience, and understanding is that piece you never knew was missing. Is it easier to stay within our own family, neighborhood, culture, language, etc? Sure but oh what we would miss. Things worth doing are rarely easy.

So how much time are you spending with people different than you? And where are you finding those slivers of Kingdom Come?


  1. As a white girl living in a Dominican neighborhood in New York City, I totally get what you're saying. I often feel like people are looking at me as I walk down the street wondering, "What is she doing here?" and I feel terribly self-conscious about the fact that my conversational Spanish doesn't really extend much further beyond "Hola!" and being able to count to ten. (Thanks, Sesame Street!)

    Our dividing lines here aren't nearly as distinct as being on one side of the tracks or the other (although, one side of Broadway is definitely more white and the other is definitely more Dominican, but you'll find a mix on both sides)... but when you walk around... you can definitely pick out who the target demographic was for each business you come across.... but there are definitely places in the neighborhood that I walk into and see the true diversity of our neighborhood represented and welcome... Like, my favorite diner and the community run bookshop.

  2. Yeah, Chicago is pretty clearly divided. I went to college in Boston and I saw a lot more mixing there than I do here. But those few places where people do interact and do spend time together are absolutely beautiful. I'd love to sit in that diner or spend too much time in the bookshop in your neighborhood!

  3. I lived in Yuma a few years ago and aside from the marines, it was a predominantly mexican/hispanic area. It was mostly a stimulating and enriching experience but I had an incident or two where I was the target of a "you don't belong here" sort of message.
    I would definitely say it's easier to stay within your own culture but you're definitely limiting yourself if you do. Even with the hate I encountered, I learned so much.

  4. In my old neighborhood, someone once yelled to me, "There's no Starbucks here!" I laughed and kept walking.

    Yes, the learning is so important. Living amongst different people creates compassion and understanding. I think a lot of our "political" differences would resolve themselves if people lived and interacted with one another and started to see their commonalities.

  5. When I first moved to Chicago, I was surprised to see how segregated it is. If you're interested, this article has a map of Chicago that shows just how segregated it is. It'd be fascinating if it weren't so sad!



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