Last week remained busy right up through the weekend. Terry and I had registered to attend City Summit 2013, mainly because John Perkins was to be the main speaker. I have read Mr. Perkins work on urban renewal and city revitalization through relational work including racial reconciliation. He has been doing this work, literally living in some of the most dangerous places, for fifty years. As you know, I have a passion for the inner city and making it a place that is good for everyone. I was really looking forward to what I would learn at this conference.
The conference was held in the inner city, at a church in the southeast part of town. The church had once been Cedar Avenue Baptist but is now called Christian Temple. Where it was once an almost all white church, it is now mostly Hispanic, serving the neighborhood. The church building itself has been well preserved and looks much like it did when it was built in the early 1960s. The layout reminds me a lot of First Baptist where we attend, but before we did major renovation. I liked that fact that they still had the pews.
Terry and I had dinner Friday night at a very old drive-in that is now a Mexican takeout spot. This drive-in was popular when I was a kid, fifty years ago, and my parents and I would stop there for hamburgers when we were in Fresno. The drive-in is in an old part of town that is now pretty run-down. The food, though, was very tasty. We ate at a tiny little folding table right outside the window from which we got our burrito, horchata, and tostada. No hamburgers and fries now.
We were up early on Saturday morning to drive across town to begin Day 2 of the City Summit. After viewing artwork done by former juvenile taggers who have been mentored by Youth for Christ members, we heard from John Perkins again.
Mr. Perkins challenged us to all have a purpose or others will work us for their purpose. He reminded the group of 300, mostly under age 30, that God has enough for all of us, and we should all enhance the lives of those around us. Prepare ourselves to prepare others.
There were two breakout sessions before lunch. Terry sat in on one about church-based job creation and another on creation care. I went to hear about toxic charity and how to help without hurting. The second was lead by a psychologist who works with urban members, keeping them from burning out or suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder brought about by exposure to violence and trauma. I was startled when she talked about burnout, listing the signs: depersonalization, cynicism, and lack of efficacy. She was talking about me before I left teaching. Turns out, 21 years in such an environment is unusual. Most cannot do it for that long without some sort of breakdown. Mmmm. No wonder I am enjoying my retirement so much.
Lunch was provided for the attendees by four community groups. Terry and I chose plates from Hmong Alliance Church–beef broccoli, fried rice, chow mein, and an egg roll. The other choices were jerk chicken and rice from Covenant Church, chicken tamales from Union de familias, and chicken rice bowl from Food for Your Soul Ministry. It was announced that all of these organizations are available to cater for events.
I met a man who is a chaplain in a local school district (not the one for whom I worked) and encouraged me to check into doing something like that. The big city school district where I taught does not have a chaplaincy program, but when I informed some of my teacher friends, they agreed that it would be a good idea for help in dealing with the stresses teachers and students face every day. I do not believe that I am capable of handling the stress that would come with the position.
Terry and I were glad we got to take part in this City Summit. I sure learned a lot about what is going on in our community to help Fresno become a better place. It needs all the help everyone can offer.