Something wonderful has occurred in the 10 years since my family moved into the area of town known as South Tulsa. Our community has become a more diverse residential gathering of ethnicity, economy, and faith. There are many contributing factors to this development. First, a variety of residential space is represented with apartments, condos, small homes, medium houses, really big homes and a few sprawling estates; all sharing space in our four square miles of the zip code. Second, folks from a lot of different ethnic and racial backgrounds are coming to the area for the same reasons we came: to get their kids a great education. Lastly, Tulsa’s little part of the world has had a surge in Hispanic and Burmese immigrant populations during this last decade. There is an abundance of students in our area for whom English is a second language and who play the role of interpreter for their parents.
People don’t typically think of Oklahoma as a melting pot, but I remember the first time I witnessed a fairly even percentage of Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, and Asian children in my daughter’s elementary class. I was so excited to think she would be growing up in her friendships, faith and identity looking through a wide demographic lens. I knew that environment would help define her understanding of the question asked of Jesus in Luke 10, “Who is my neighbor?”.
Jesus’ response comes not too long after he sends out the twelve to share his message in towns and communities. He tells the story of the only traveler to stop and be a neighbor to a Jewish man who has been robbed, beaten and left to die. And that’s the one person who is most different from the Jewish man–the Samaritan. Their differences have separated them in culture and community, but now their journeys intersect and the Samaritan man does not hesitate to delve in and share with this stranger.
Many of us naturally gravitate towards characteristics in people that are familiar to us–probably because in our overbooked, overwhelmed pace of life, it’s easier to enter into relationships that require less time and energy. But in my family and ministry, God keeps intersecting the journey with souls who are so different from us. Most live within 3 miles of our driveway. This new normal has allowed us to deliver groceries to folks who are very hungry, without access or transportation to a food pantry. Friendships have grown out of the willingness to start a conversation and take time to understand people’s stories. We have less assumptions about poverty and more conviction about our own stewardship. And, we’ve realized how much more God has to show us when these neighbors show up to worship with us.
It’s just a beginning, and Jesus’ words to emulate the actions of the Samaritan, “Go and do the same”, continue to resonate and interrupt our plans. My prayer is that we do not hesitate.
“…and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.” Isaiah 58:10
If you’d like to help love our south Tulsa neighbors with a few bags of groceries, join us the last Sunday of each month! Visit South Tulsa Compassion for details.