It was over 20 years ago I picked up a book that helped me understand how I was wired. The realization in my life at the time was I was wired for urban life. It wasn’t about “gentrification” or some nirvana feel of high end coffee shops and five star restaurants in proximity to billion dollar sports stadiums.
I was wired to the urban setting because of the life of the people in the city. It was about the culture of the peoples gathered there. It was the challenge of rich and poor living together and how to serve “the least of these” in that kind of setting. It was to be in a place where you didn’t the “ideal” house or the “ideal” neighborhood but you worked together to move toward something more ideal for those living there.
The urban area was about change. It was about being the “constant” in that change. All could be shifting around me, but as a pastor, I could be a stabilizing factor in an ever-changing environment.
The city where I got to live that out these past 20 years was Minneapolis. My wife knows my favorite spot on the highway when we come back into town from vacation. It’s the place where I can first see the Minneapolis skyline, even though we’re still about 30 minutes from our house. I see that skyline and my heart leaps… every time. I’m not kidding.
It’s not a skyline that I see and love… and then I drive to some suburb where my house is, either. It’s a place where I live. I lived IN that city. (And that was before it was “cutting edge” to live there and before you get that perfect condo next to that perfect coffee shop that hardly anyone else could afford.)
I have loved this city. Our church was the first suburb north out of Northeast Minneapolis. It soon flipped to a much more urban feel as well.
I was home.
Neighborhoods have changed. Our neighborhood became an “artist” neighborhood decades ago because old warehouses sat empty and artists could afford cheap space. Now? It’s the trendiest spot in Minneapolis. My house sold in four days on the market.
I have loved this city. Central Avenue runs out of downtown Minneapolis (called 3rd Avenue before you hit the river) and all the way up through Northeast and into Columbia Heights, I tell people you can eat almost anywhere in the world on Central Avenue. They aren’t “fusion” trendy places. They’re true family restaurants run by immigrant families. And the tastes! WOW!
I have loved the parks and the affordable opportunities for our boys to play sports. I have loved the Columbia Heights Schools because they welcomed our kids and gave them a great education in an incredibly diverse ethnic environment. I have loved Columbia Heights for the embrace of all peoples and their openness to allow the faith community to have a place at every table in town.
This city has loved me back. Even these last few weeks I have been able to still do things one last time before I head out of town. It was people making contact to ask me for one last favor. It was like 20 years hadn’t really passed and I wasn’t really moving.
Talk to me about my city and I will eventually get to the sports teams, the theater scene, and the high end restaurants. But that will be after I talk about Central Avenue, Heights Schools, the clergy group in Columbia Heights, my neighbors on my block, the local park teams that my boys played on, the ethnic restaurants, the partnerships with Columbia Heights police, fire, and city hall…
I have loved this city. That beautiful skyline is captivating, but all it indicates to me is what is inside that skyline. That is where I have lived these past 20 years… and that is what I will miss the most.
Five days before we leave. I have loved this city. Thanks for loving me back.