In Hard Bargian, we usually don’t see the sun until after 10 o’clock; Mr.Jewel’s tobacco barn at the far-east end of the block blots it out. But I wonder why it feels like the poor have less light to work with. Certainly there is less of everything else here, which is why the spirit of the people in Hard Bargain is remarkable. They’re like starved or stranded sailors on a half-sunken ship, smiling and calling out, welcoming all to come aboard for the cruise of a lifetime. It’s not a naive spirit, but more an aggressive optimism born from the reality that life is indeed hard, and that maybe just the chance to be in this place, even in the midst of deep need, is somehow a real bargain.

My neighbors and I get along most of the time, but there are moments when tempers flare and words get heated. Peace is a relative thing anyway and more of it is needed everywhere, especially in Hard Bargain. I’m talking about the kind of peace that comes to you when you’re scared and pray for help. A peace that goes beyond your ability to will it. God has to give it to you and it can’t be faked. Maybe because Hard Bargain is a poor neighborhood, the inability to fake peace runs door to door. You can’t survive here if you don’t embrace the desperation. You can’t fake the peace very long before you’re found out. The tough times that poverty dispenses heap up in piles at your door. To deny it means you’re stuck in the mud and can’t move. There are no sidewalks on Glass Street, just uneven pathways and mud. There’s no denying that. My neighborhood got its name 140 years ago when a particularly difficult land deal concluded with some spit and a handshake. The argument gave an emancipated slave the opportunity to build a home and own real estate. The first African-American landowner of this gentle hillside held onto a deed for freshly-acquired property, surrendering his hard-earned cash. This morning while walking the streets of Hard Bargain, it dawned on me that things really haven’t changed much. The residents here still struggle to own property. Rent and utilities continue to take nearly all their pay. As I continued the trek, my mind drifted to those early settlers, kicking their toes against dirt and rock as they began to lay out this subdivision.

I love this neighborhood and the city of Franklin. We all contend for her because God is redeeming the city. It sounds strange, but we believe in seeking the peace, or shalom, of the city. Christ Community Church (CCC) is a member of the Presbyterian Church in America. Our denomination’s history is filled with battles over race relations and the segregation of God’s people, which is one reason for CCC’s growing desire to love our neighbors throughout the city of Franklin and Williamson County. We are recognizing our lack of love in relating to our community and are being changed into people who want to fall in love with the poor. Maybe it seems right to do that because Jesus is in love with us, the wretchedly poor in spirit.

Excerpt from Story One..."Hard Bargain a Beautiful Place to Live" Published by SAFE HOUSE BOOKS