I like the freedom here … I actually like how screwed up it is. I work every day to help fix Detroit, but if we ever complete the job, I’ll find somewhere else to go.
The alley. The building. In the neighborhood where I served 6 years. The picture’s from a year ago when I had some time to revisit while Gail was speaking at a youth conference near Detroit.
The man who likes Detroit freedom is Matthew Naimi and I know what he means. It’s the way I felt during my days in Detroit. I felt as if the city’s screwed up condition was liberating.
Sure, there were times it was absolutely frustrating. Dozens of tires dumped on my lot, and before Mr. Clay could arrange for someone to haul them away here comes a city inspector who ticketed us for the tires. The fight would have cost more than the ticket. We paid the ticket and we paid the hauler. I wonder where he dumped them.
What I found liberating was that there were no rules. The rules don’t work in Detroit, East St Louis, west side Chicago, Gary and countless other screwed up places around the USA. No they don’t. And because they don’t, you are free to. The screwed up places have been abandoned by the rule makers. They make the rules, but no one’s playing by them. So, they take their ball and go home.
Naimi understands the downsides of being in the largest American city to declare bankruptcy. He also knows Detroit is a good place for someone like him. Who sees SCREWED written all over a city. And loves working every day to help fix such a messed up place.
Dumped tires. Sure, frustrating. There are worse things.
Gail really likes this quote from one of our long-gone Generals of The Salvation Army, Arnold Brown -
The frontline of The Salvation Army must always run through the agony of the world.
Where the brick wall ends in my photo is a small indented area which held our dumpsters. One night I opened one to shove in cardboard boxes and as I did a rat jumped up, ran along the cardboard, my arm, down my back and disappeared into the night. I don’t like rats, for eight years killed big ones with a stick in Chicago (another story). I would have bad dreams about rats; some peripheral movements still put me into heightened alertness. But that night, the lightness. As it ran across me. Filled me with wonder.
I think Mr. Naimi is the kind of person who looks for the frontline. Read more about him and others in Hanging a Shingle in Detroit.
I think some of you are also frontline people. These days, I’m looking for people like you, who look for the frontline. If you’re that kind why don’t you drop me a note.