Saturday, May 4, 2013

Crossing Urban Borders

For some, border crossing is unwitting; for others, it is intentional and redemptive. 

I penned the following piece after reflecting on a passage in John's gospel that begins: "Jesus had to go through Samaria..." In the story, Jesus choses intentionally to cross a significant cultural border not simply for the sake of expedient travel, but to encounter neighbors his followers otherwise would have avoided. I think about the daily challenges and learning opportunities of border crossing afforded all of us who live in a metropolitan area.

Driving my car, I cross a border,
with hardly a notice
slice through historic turf
that defined and defied
urban neighbors for years.

More unmarked boundaries
pass beneath my wheels.
In another era they would have
separated white from black,
native-born from immigrant,
rich from poor.

Insulated, I crisscross the city--
mobile, transient, unfettered--
on freeways that bypass realities,
offering commuter illusions
of debt-free passage and place.

To one, this passing cityscape
appears an unbounded horizon.
To another, it is precariously cut
and quartered territories--
staked, claimed, developed,
defended, abandoned, rehabbed.

One travels in and out of the urban core
unwittingly (except relief
that one does not reside here).
Another moves among these neighborhoods
acutely aware of spirit and place,
in reverence for soulful struggles.

One uses the city and retreats.
Another embraces its rhythms.
One merely consumes its resources.
Another, fueled by its complexities,
dares to steward what one still
seeks to understand.

We all cross these borders,
daily traverse a living polis
layered with polarity and paradox,
pulsating with power for shalom,
calling each to love the whole--
honoring one neighbor at a time.

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

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