I’ve been on a lot of bus rides. This one was different.
The tour was put together by FIC, Faith in Community which is the Fresno chapter of the PICO Network, faith-based community organizing.
I didn’t meet everyone on the bus but I already knew several of the pastors on board. We were joined by Mayor Ashley Swearengin and City Council Member Clint Olivier. I give them both credit for getting on the bus. I can’t imagine it’s easy to be pent up on a bus for two hours touring some of the most difficult sites of the city with constituents from those neighborhoods.
(Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin)
(My apologies to both for not getting the most flattering pictures... It's not easy to get a good portrait in a moving bus.)
We drove around southwest Fresno, by the boarded up homes, mom and pop businesses striving to get by as well as businesses from out of town that many consider to be taking advantage of the low income population. Then we drove across town, clearly going up in socio-economic standing. There is a stark difference.
I find myself in an interesting position.
The congregation in which I work is divided down political lines and there are significant differences of opinion on how to solve the problems we see in Fresno and our surroundings.
But I’m convinced that we all can do something to help and I’m betting there are quite a few avenues that we can walk down together.
And, speaking of walking down avenues… we ended the evening tonight by strolling around the neighborhood with Pastor B.T. Lewis of Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church. Every Wednesday evening, a group sets out into the streets surrounding his church on the Night Watch with the goal of reducing violence. Pastor Lewis said that he’s seen improvements. They’ve gotten to know many of the people typically out in the evenings there. He and his parishioners pray for anyone who wishes and engage them in conversation.
What I saw was a group of people taking responsibility for improving our city, especially their local piece of it. It’s a great model and I would like to see everyone stepping out to help better our city and the lives of those who live here.