22 October, 2016

By Eric Larsen, Southside Urban Neighbor

As another beautiful early August day is winding to a close, I return to the 2200 block of Elliot Avenue in south Minneapolis, my hands smelling of tomato vines and my backpack half-full of green tomatoes. The laughter and screams of children playing in the alley welcome me home, but I rush inside to knock on my downstairs neighbor’s door, excited to share more of summer’s bounty with her and her extended network of green tomato lovers.

In many ways, the peculiarity of green tomatoes is a fitting microcosm of my first year as an Urban Neighbor. I never could have imagined the joy and delight that comes across a person’s face when they receive a green tomato. A food that most people who I grew up with wouldn’t even consider edible turns out to be a near delicacy in the city! In fact, the more I dive into life in the city, the more I become aware of my own naiveté and begin to see things in a new light.

I have seen neighbors with much less financial security than I who give freely— and give their best. Growing up in a household where giving was thought of as a way to do some good with your excess, I have been challenged to give more sacrificially within God’s Kingdom. My concept of charity has been greatly altered as “the poor” have now become personal friends with whom I share the joys and struggles of daily life. Whereas I used to hold onto a concept of compassion where I was performing a service “for” someone, I now see that the true heart of compassion lies in walking alongside and suffering “with” someone.

So as one year as an Urban Neighbor comes to a close and another year lies ahead, I eagerly remain open to more of God’s teachings about His Kingdom through the most unlikely of people. By the way, you’d be surprised how good green tomatoes taste in a cake!