It is tempting to think that we live individual lives, especially when differences seem stark. Dualistic definitions of white and black, rich and poor, haves and have nots, educated and undereducated, align people among simple categories. Even the clothes we wear serve as a marker to our assigned place in society.
But the fullest understanding of who we are is not as an individual, but as a neighbor.
Living in to this deeper definition is what we are beginning to achieve at the Reeb Avenue Center. In the South Side of Columbus, we have dared to create a place where differences are both appreciated and transcended; where we see each other reflected in the eyes of the stranger.
Today, this dream literally took another step forward.
Since Reeb opened, I have hosted what I thought was going to be a health and nutrition class, but has grown in to a small group coaching session where people support one another. A few weeks ago, people talked about the importance of being active and moving. Today, this same group lived in to their own vision of wellness and began a walking club.
As we walked to the Southeast Lions Park and back, people shared stories. I heard the story of a woman who visited this neighborhood from Kentucky 50 years ago to help babysit and never left. People shared stories of spending the weekend with friends and walking dogs and watching football games. After we walked, 27 people gathered for a class where we talked about making our plates look like MyPlate. Although our class was led by dietetic interns serving through Columbus Public Health, people shared with one another recipes for dishes like baked winter squash. It was not only the voice of the dietitian, but the voice of the neighbor, who offered new possibilities.
People from different backgrounds and experiences, who share a common vision of living healthier lives and having healthier families, became the resource for one another. Each of our classes ends with people naming an achievable action step they commit to for the week. Two weeks ago, the group itself identified the importance of accountability and people now pair up to check in with one another on their weekly progress. A person who commits to eating more vegetables checks in on the person who commits to being more active and another division is broken as a relationship is formed.
Despite all of the ways we are different, we are also all the same. We all want to live healthy, full, complete lives. Today, not only did I hear a similarity in stories, but witnessed a sharing in opportunities. These are not 27 people on 27 different paths toward health, but one group moving and learning and journeying together. A group that created a walking club, a group that identifies partners, a group that can show the world what it means to be more than an individual, but to be a neighbor.