Jeff and I had the chance to be part of an amazing local event last month. Community enCompass puts on the Taste and See each year which is a progressive dinner tour in the core City of Muskegon. Attendees have the opportunity to see and learn about the work that community enCompass does as well as Taste small bites (and sips) from local restaurants and breweries. When we were asked to participate we weren’t sure where we’d be in the building process but we did think it would be a great opportunity to give back to the community that we love. I never thought about how much they would give to us. We were set up at the newest rehab project on 4th Street and as many of you know I have a deep love for old houses with great bones and beautiful stories. This house did not disappoint, there are built in alcoves, beautiful old tile and a bear claw tub surrounded by incredible woodwork that had gently been refurbished by someone who truly listened to the house, someone who took the time to learn the history to understand how to best help this project become a home again.
Kimi is the Rehab Specialist and as part of the Taste and See she gave a short speech to each of the three groups that came in. She started with a quote from Adrianne Marie Brown’s book, Emergent Strategy, “When we are engaged in acts of love, we humans are at our best and most resilient. The love in romance that makes us want to be better people, the love of children that makes us change our whole lives to meet their needs, the love of family that makes us drop everything to take care of them, the love of community that makes us work tirelessly with broken hearts.” Kimi went on to share that she had worked tirelessly and with a broken heart, that simple phrase made my heart break but then she went on to say one of the most authentic and moving things I’d ever heard. She said she believed that God breaks our hearts, allows our hearts to be broken so that they can be opened up to allow more to make room for more. She gave that speech 3 times and each time my own heart broke a little more. I listened as the other volunteers spoke. I heard the stories of neighbors and YEP (Youth Empowerment Program) volunteers. I saw kids from my high school that volunteered their extra time to “make the hood look good.” I was blown away by the sense of community, by something that Drew Philp (author of A $500 House in Detroit) calls radical neighborliness in his NPR podcast.
As for Jeff and I we had also had our hearts broken on our journey to building our restaurant. We weren’t sure where we would’ve been in the process but when we signed up to do this we never would’ve thought we would still not have broken ground. We’ve seen setbacks and challenges along the way. Things that financially and emotionally have truly broken our hearts but that evening we had the chance to do what we love, to feed the people. Nothing makes my husband happier than bringing joy and nourishment to people through his food. Knowing that he had a friend plant the tomatoes from heirloom seeds that filled his bruschetta, that Jeff had gone and picked them, prepared them and now had the chance to serve them gave him a sense of pride and fulfillment that began to fill our broken hearts with hope, with a vision of the future.
So as we are now celebrating receiving our permits and beginning to schedule site work and planning for our future we are forever grateful for the opportunity to serve our community and celebrate those who do so everyday. Who spend their lives having their hearts broken open to be filled. I left that experience changed, thinking about how I could continue to support and grow this community and I have been consumed by the thoughts and concepts of emergent strategy and radical neighborliness although I do not pretend to understand them. At the core seems to be the concept of being in your neighborhood, being of your neighbors, listening and working together to solve the heartbreaking challenges that we see and doing so as a community of loving the community that you are in and for us, it just reinforces all of the reasons we chose to be in downtown Muskegon.