Why You Should Eavesdrop on Your Neighbors

A collage of tidy older homes, hip coffee shops, ramshackle clapboard houses, and parks line the busy streets of the Boise neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. Boise is home to wise elders who have been rooted in this colorful historic neighborhood for decades. It is stomping ground for an assortment of gangs who posture for power and keep police on regular patrol. It is also prime real estate for gentrification. Established as a Scandinavian and Polish neighborhood in the late 19th century, Boise has over the years become one of the more ethnically diverse neighborhoods in inner city Portland.

Apricot Anderson Irving is the daughter of missionaries to Haiti. Her third-culture upbringing compelled her to ensure her two young boys would feel at home in a diverse community. Boise met her criteria. In 2008, when Apricot and her husband, David, moved the family from London to the neighborhood, Boise’s urban renewal was already in full swing.

“I had been a stay-at-home mom for several years and was ready for a creative outlet,” explains Apricot, a freelance writer and audio producer, whose stories have appeared on This American Life and in her forthcoming book, The Missionary’s Daughter. “I loved the neighborhood but was sensitive about displacing the existing community. I started attending neighborhood meetings. I also spent a lot of time in my garden, where I would have the most amazing conversations with strangers who stopped on the sidewalk to tell me their stories. I wanted to find a way to share those stories with others.”

My friend, Kelly Bean, wrote this piece. It is an important reminder to me about what makes a church like Hollywood a different kind of place, built on stories of our community. To the degree that we’ve gotten away from this, as a congregation, we have become weaker and more fragmented.

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