Listen… I can almost hear the voices of the neighborhood from 100 years ago.

     – Bill  Byrd, resident of Benton Park West

This day of work ended, followed by a few hours Gail and I spent with our son John walking through Soulard Market, book browsing and dinner in downtown St Louis.

Friday evening I tagged along with John who had a dinner appointment with Linda Hennigh.  Linda is president of the Benton Park West Neighborhood Association.  John’s Salvation Army work and life is in this south St Louis neighborhood.  He and Linda share an interest in finding ways to strengthen their community.

The restaurant was along Park Avenue near Lafayette Square, a very nice stretch of renovated homes.  Linda is experienced and knowedgeable in bringing stability to Benton Park’s housing stock.  It’s one of those issues which most everyone understands.  Strong healthy communities need housing that allows individuals and families to flourish, feel secure and find justice.  Justice, in that the poor and powerless are not at the mercy of the rich and powerful.

We lingered after our cheesburgers, fries and salad.  What about the human stock of a community?  If housing is a valuable resource for communities, along with good schools, streets, and public services, then so too are its people. 

Strong healthy communities exist, we believe, for the sake of humans.  But communities are also comprised of humans.  Humans make up the greatest resource of a community.  It may seem strange, but it can be put this way:  humans are there for humans.

Actually this is a very spiritual concept.  And it is the essence of God’s plan, at least according to the Christian faith.  We exist for the sake of others.  ‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ the good book says (John 15:13).

I think the three of us paused quietly for a moment as we pondered this.  Humans are worth investing in, taking care of, and perhaps even laying down one’s own life for the sake of.

I asked Linda why she became an urban pioneer, investing her time and money, and loving care into Benton Park West.  I’m not sure she spends too much time thinking about this.  But it’s what she’s doing.  Linda’s a doer, and, again, the good book tells us about such behavior.  ‘be doers of the word, and not merely hearers’ (James 1:22).

Some of us are called to give attention to houses.  And some to humans.  Just as God, who so loved the world that he also gave much.

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