In many homes people like to hang photos of their loved ones. It’s a way to honor and celebrate the people who matter to us. One of my (Veronica) favorite things about our home is that no matter where I turn, I can see a framed photo with the face of someone I love smiling back at me.
In addition to photos of immediate family members, there is a wall in our study that features our former neighbors from southwest Atlanta. It’s a collage of pictures, cards, artwork, and notes that were left on our door with instructions for summer activities the neighborhood kids were looking forward to. There’s an old cover of a Lecrae album, our favorite music to play in the car on field trips, and animal art made out of pastels that still rubs off on our fingers every time we touch it. Above it all hangs a piece of homemade art declaring “Love Wins” – what has become a family and life mantra in our household.
As Breanna and I get deeper into the work of promoting health equity we realize that a big piece still needed is changing our mental narrative about people in poverty.
As long as we believe things like the poor are lazy, they should pull themselves up by their bootstraps, or they are poor because they’ve made bad decisions or they are on drugs, etc. our compassion will be limited.
Instead, what if we believed that if we knew them we would love them? What if we believed that our needs, wants and struggles were more similar than different and they’re just doing the best they can to figure out this one crazy, wild, confusing, often unjust and inequitable life?
What if we saw, when we looked at our neighbors, the face of someone whose picture we’d want to hang on our wall?
That’s what I still see. When a young man in a hoodie comes in to see Good Sam’s pediatrician for a sports physical, it’s Caleb. When a high school senior smiles ear to ear in our teaching kitchen after putting the finishing garnish on a well plated meal, I see Isaiah. When the young homeless 19 year old girl catches our bus on Friday morning and walks in scared and unsure for Homeless Clinic… it’s Tilly, but with the chance for a different outcome.
To the kids whose pictures hang on our wall, who are now young adults, I love you. I love you so much! You were our first children. I still pray for you, and I believe in you. You will forever hold a precious place in my heart. Your stories taught me so many lessons – about the challenges in our urban neighborhoods, but also about the resiliency of the human spirit. I don’t know how and when our paths will overlap again, but I do know one things is for sure: your picture will be hanging on our wall.