When I was in nursing school, each student had to share with the class where he or she lived. “I live in Elkhart,” one lady said. Then, before anyone could assume that this made her a broken human being, she quickly added, “For now.”
Elkhart has its reputation, well-established, as a place to drive through with all doors locked. Yet, that very brokenness makes the beauty even brighter. I love:
1. The river
I love staring into its dark cold winter face. I love the turtles on the rocks in springtime. The less lovely parts touch me too. The sluggish summer river hums with bugs. The old boardwalk beside McDonald’s harbors people with large bags of stuff and listless faces.
2. The sidewalks
I love to walk. In my childhood in the country, we drove in cars to the library, the post office, a friend’s house, or the grocery store. When I can, I love going places on foot. Something comes alive in me when my shoes are consuming yards of cracked cement.
It is hard to have people from diverse backgrounds trying to get along with each other. I even think its okay for people to feel most relaxed with their own cultural group, just as they feel with their own family. But, to experience diversity day by day, and realize that at our core, no one is worth more than anyone else? This is a blessing I receive in Elkhart.
I lived in Elkhart awhile and I’ve heard a lot of stories. Still, when I sit down and ask someone to tell me about themselves, I often come away brimming. I brim with gratitude that I was blessed with an incredible childhood. And I’m brimming with compassion for the person who did not receive that foundation in life.
5. Dedicated ministries
Guidance Ministries, Teen Challenge, RETA, Faith Mission Home, Church Community Services. These are just a few places that my husband and I reach out to when someone needs help that we can’t provide. I have met many inspirational people who are engaged in giving their lives to others.
6. The city departments
I just love the garbage collectors. I don’t know why, but I do. They are so consistent and faithful, crashing in at 6:15 every Friday morning. I’ve also called the police a few times and an ambulance once. They were always prompt, professional, and kind. And the library, although a haven for the homeless, is a beautiful place with kind staff.
7. The trains
Between the river and a massive train yard, Elkhart’s streets are a navigational nightmare. But what power and beauty and faithfulness they both display! At night, lying in bed, we hear the unsleeping call of the trains blast across the city.
I could list more favorites, like the clock tower chiming out the hour, or the pancakes at the Baker’s Nook. But just come visit. Yes, you’ll see some brokenness. But in that brokenness, there is so much life and love.