Around Town: Austin

So, in keeping with tradition, I will do a post on my weekend trip out to the Austin neighborhood for my InterVarsiy chapter’s retreat.  I feel like I should put a disclaimer here that this isn’t a normal “Around Town / Around the World” post in that I didn’t go to Austin for a vacation like the other places I’ve written about so far.  Also, I am notoriously bad at remembering to take pictures, and since the weekend was so short I have no pictures whatsoever.

Now that all is out of the way let’s get down to it.  I went to the Austin neighborhood with a handful of other members of my school’s InterVarsity chapter.  We meet up with a handful of students from DePaul University’s InterVarsity chapter as well.  On Friday night we spent time getting to know each other, eating way too much cheep, off-brand candy, and talking about what God is doing in Austin.

And God is doing so much.  Austin is a neighborhood that was radically changed in the 60’s with white flight and is now a heavily black neighborhood where a significant percentage (I don’t remember the number) of the population is living under the poverty line.  I struggle sometimes with how I should be dealing with race in my daily life and this retreat was occationally uncomfortable in that I was usually the only white chick there.

Being the minority is a switch for me as in most other places I am the majority.  I was a good experience for me to be the one that looks out of place.  My school is big on diversity and is always bragging about our amount of diversity, but I find that it isn’t mentioned much outside of the admissions process and the office of Multi-Cultural Affairs.  The thing is though, that we are all broken people.  “Black”, “white”, “red”, “brown”, “yellow”, what-have-you, we are all broken somehow by the pain and hardships that come with living.

The amazing thing is the community that grows when people are in such tough situations.  On Saturday I went with a small team to a local church and we helped them with cleaning their sanctuary; sweeping, mopping, cleaning bathrooms and polishing pews.  I learned that the church building is nearly a hundred years old and was built as a catholic church.  The current owners of the building are a Baptist church, and they’ve been there for 18 years.  The church congregation has been meeting in some fashion for nearly 50 years in the same neighborhood.

Saturday night we went out for Soul food (am I spelling that right?), and debriefed with each other talking about what we’d done in the afternoon.  Once again we ate too much food.  This time it was more nutritious than candy.  That night I sang hymns because I freaking love hymns.  Love ’em, love ’em, love ’em.  Apparently this is abnormal for a person my age.  I don’t even care.  I could also talk for a very long time about stained glass windows, but I’ll spare you.  For now.  I feel like there will be a post about one or both of these subjects at some point in the future*.

My love of hymns was actualized even more so when we sang a few in church Sunday morning.  I was in awe of the love and peace that surrounded the church.  The sermon talked about a lot of things, but the part that especially stuck with me was the mention of tithing.  I needed that reminder and still do as I figure out my finances for the rest of the school year half based on the atypical month of September.  Which is now October and feels to be very officially fall.

The chill in the air followed me back all the way to the Loop as the whole lot of us took the green line home again, home again.  Beginning again with “normal” life was a bit of a strange experience.  There was homework to be done, dishes to be put away, and Doctor Who to watch (Umm, guys?  Doctor Who? Anybody?).  Good-bye Austin.  You’ve taught me much, and I wait to see what else I have to learn.  Thank you for letting me stay, and bringing me back.

*But I also promised a post on farmers market meals and an “Around the World” post for my Denver / Boulder.

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