If someone had told me twenty-three years ago...

that I would be taking a leisurely walk through the Hard Bargain neighborhood as a homeowner, I wouldn’t have believed them. But the truth is, after being here twelve years, I don’t want to live anywhere else. Hard Bargain continues to satisfy me. Maybe the constant adventure of the community is enough to hold me. Like a moth to a flame, or a mosquito to my skin, I stay mesmerized. Our cozy spot is both an outpost for the lonely and the best place to find everything I need. Relationships have been formed that bring satisfaction to both giving and receiving. But there’s also an unpredictability that comes with the territory; you just never know what’s going to happen next.

My former neighborhood, Meadow Green Estates, was just like its name. A place green, lush, and lovely where all the meadow-dwellers live and flourish. It does hold all of life’s difficulties of course, but for the most part, it was full of birds, trees, flowers, and lawns manicured like golf course fairways. In contrast, walking the streets of Hard Bargain reveals things you wouldn’t notice when cruising by in a car. The houses definitely look better than when I first drove through in 1986. Back then most of them were one good windstorm away from collapse. But some things haven’t changed. Several neighbors slowly head inside as they see me coming; they’re still apprehensive about a white person living on Glass Street. Rusted refrigerators and discarded washing machines still pile up on certain corners like strange urban climbing monuments. I know why some call this the worst area of the city.

During my early morning walks, the smell of bacon frying and biscuits baking hit me…I’m not sure where the fragrances come from. It is probably a combination of the early-rising residents cooking their breakfasts and several nearby fast food restaurants getting ready for hungry customers. Living in Hard Bargain isn’t a project for me or my family. It isn’t a mission, and it isn’t done out of duty. Sometimes I forget that, maybe because I could just leave and go somewhere else if staying here got too difficult. I could even return to Meadow Green Estates, a luxury my neighbors don’t have. They’ll be here until they die or are moved out as elderly people. This isn’t a social assignment we’re attempting to accomplish. We love our neighbors because we’re connected in community with them. We consider them our extended family.

As I observe the residences during my walk, it’s again clear to me that we’re called here to just live our lives with our Hard Bargain friends. God is transforming lives all around us through the Gospel. Keep looking for and acting on the way He uses you and your family to love Him and your neighbors.