carver

Have a blessed Passover today.

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If you turn left, you’re driving by impressive professors’ homes with well-manicured yards and large, old trees.  Turning right, however, you drive past extremely unimpressive shacks and trailers that barely qualify as houses.

The neighborhood on Carver Street, halfway between Treadaway and Judge Ely on E.N. 10th, was nearly condemned and leveled many years ago after the low-lying area flooded.  In many cases, it appears some houses (many of them no bigger than 500 or 600 square feet) never were fixed up after the flood.  Aesthetically, Carver is deplorable.

My first impression of the Carver residents was less-than-favorable as well.  Middle-aged men &emdash; who, in “more developed” parts of town would be at work to support their families &emdash; were staggering aimlessly down the street or sitting on their front step or congregating suspiciously on the corners.  A younger black woman walked down the street, attracting penetrating, filthy stares from some of the men.

We were there to pick up furniture from the house of a woman who had just passed away.  Her son, who had formerly held a public position in Abilene but has since moved away, informed us that she wanted to donate everything she owned to the Christian Service Center.  After finding the house, confusion set in as we didn’t see her son (who was supposed to meet us) at the address we were given.  People were beginning to come out of their houses to see why the three white men were at Mrs. C’s house.  Spotting white folks in this neighborhood usually means trouble with the law, I’m sure.

A man wandering down the street stopped and asked us who we were looking for.  He was holding a tall can of Natural Light.  It was a quarter past nine in the morning, and judging from his speech, he was clearly on his second or third.  He staggered off, muttering something under his breath.

Mrs. C’s house was probably one of the nicer ones on the block, and it was really nothing to write home about.  Floors stripped of their carpet.  Glass all over the floor.  Medications and beer cans (her other son also lived in the house) on every counter.  A Playboy magazine on the coffee table.  Though her son wanted us to take everything away, only a small portion of Mrs. C’s furniture was in good enough condition for us to re-distribute.

Several things struck me about last month’s “moving experience” (pun intended) in the Carver neighborhood.  First, the neighborhood’s proximity to ACU and the “wealthy” people who live on the Hill.  Second, the invisibility of the neighborhood; if one were not intentionally looking for Carver Street, one could live in Abilene all their lives and never see it.  Third, the feeling of hopelessness in that place.

If statistics tell us anything, for every University Hills-esque neighborhood in the United States, there are two or three Carver neighborhoods.  That fact smacked us in the face after Hurricane Katrina.  I heard people say things like, “I never knew it was that bad.”  News flash:  It’s that bad here in Abilene.  How can communities be transformed?  Shouldn’t Christians lead the way in this arena, especially if they live so close to it?  Here’s a wild idea: Several Christians get together to pray and strategize imaginatively about how the Carver neighborhood and its people can be transformed, physically and spiritually.  Not for them to become middle-class, but for them to escape the bondage &emdash; to any number of addictions &emdash; that is a reality in their lives.  Christians are usually pretty serious about “making conversions” (usually on our turf, not theirs…), but what if we became equally as serious about freeing those in bondage to futility?

 

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