Living In an Urban Village
by Lynne Greenwald
written for the Tacoma Catholic Worker newsletter
One of my favorite activities is showing visitors around our community. Guests are often surprised at the number of houses, gardens and services offered. By providing housing, showers, meals, clean socks and countless opportunities to just listen, provide a smile and a sign of respect, many of the people that live in this 4-block area share a vision of another way of living with others.
When my grandchildren are visiting we range in ages from 8 months to 84 years, and our interests are as varied as our ages. Common threads that connect our lives are social justice, peace and nonviolence. Early summer means having long days of working outside with more time to talk and play together. Students volunteer, some living in the neighborhood for 1 or 2 weeks, learning about living with the poor and in community. Their energy and enthusiasm is always welcomed and appreciated.
In the mid-1970’s Dorothy Day described her impression of a West Virginian community she had visited. “These are more like villages, with families living close together, sharing and cooperating in all those many ways that used to be common to any small village.” I believe this description fits our neighborhood. For over 30 years this Tacoma community has experienced the pains and sorrows, joys and celebrations familiar to other communities. Life in community is a bumpy ride or at least exciting and challenging.
The Hilltop Madrinas (Godmothers) began gathering weekly in various houses or outside, getting to know one another and to begin collecting stories to record the colorful history of this evolving community. Preserving history, documenting the present and becoming friends has become a work and a gift. While time-lines and facts, with dates and names are interesting, the deep, committed faith and love that has grown here is something I will always treasure.
Three years ago I gave away nearly everything (a place to live, job, possessions and even people I considered to be friends), to become part of the Disarm Now Plowshares action. Rather than finding myself lost, I’ve found myself in a wealth of community and good friends, people who have welcomed me and my family into this village. And for this gift, I only hope I will be able to nurture a small piece of this special place where all feel welcome, and hopefully, loved and respected.
Lynne lives and works in Irma Gary House, a transitional house for women leaving prison.