What it Takes to Create Change
We have been picking up trash from the same block for two years with the same small group of people. We have seen volunteers come and go, been shaken by a pandemic, and pulled wet and dissolving garbage from along street curbs every week for over two years.
Yet, when we show up, we smile. We have become regulars on this little block. Every city has a block just like it- a place where people caution you against living and talk about as simply a problem to be solved. A place surrounded by empty talk, a place where people don’t stay, a place where people rarely linger.
This is the place where we have been called to. We know what it’s like to come from overlooked places. When your life has been radically altered by the appearance of grace, you don’t underestimate the presence of God in the little things.
We have all come from places where we have been dismissed, overlooked, or written off. God saw us. We choose to see others in the same way.
There are days we wonder if it’s making a difference at all, when the needs feel too overwhelming, and the action seems too small. Does it even matter? Does anyone even care?
On those days we remind ourselves that for communities like these, establishing trust is paramount. Our consistency is doing something. It’s showing we are dependable. We don’t get to make claims on people’s time or attention without first giving of ourselves. We are taking the time to get to know both the community and the need, and to become a part of it. As we get to know them, they are also getting to know us.
There have been many people who have attempted to come in and play hero, only to walk away dejected when the people have no interest in being saved. The world does not become an easier place, just because you have decided to change it. While the needs are pressing, it’s not just the ways we help, but how we help that means everything.
We swing low in humility in the ways we show up and serve, knowing that the places we bend low are the places where God loves to show up. After all, he is the God who swung low into humanity, who became like us in order to save us.
We show up hoping that our small, insignificant actions might be just a glimpse of God’s heart, knowing that God’s heart is a place where purpose prevails, where dignity is affirmed, where brokenness is restored.
If seeing trash everyday on their lawn and in their streets is a testament to how little others care, will picking it up show them how much God does? If people write off this part of town as a problem, but we instead speak into its potential, will they hear the way God speaks over them? If others treat this street as a place to avoid, will our showing up remind them that God is present.
You see, our dreams for our community are numerous, but the process is one week of showing up after another. Embedded deep in the grit of the perseverance it takes to keep going, I find the grace of what it means to love. It comes in the slow work of being present. This is unglamorous, hard work of creating change.
Today we are simply picking up trash, but we see the glory breakthrough in small ways. In the thank yous that are thrown out as people walk to their cars in the morning, in the names we are learning as we show up week after week, in the people we have prayed for, and in the conversations we have. They are everyday conversations where they tell us about their children, their pets, what happened the day before when we weren’t there, and sometimes about the churches they went to and the new ones they are looking for. God is present in this community.
Right now, it might look small. Right now, we might long to help in bigger ways and make a bigger impact, so we can see them grab hold of everything that God has made available to them. We long to see our city restored one community at a time.
Yes, our hearts ache to make a bigger impact, and we know that one day we will. Until that time, we continue to show up in these small, seemingly insignificant days, keeping our eyes fixed on all that God can do. We might doubt, is it possible for love to break through? We don’t always know, but we will keep showing up in the meantime.