By Michela Hamm
Well here we are folks, blog post numero dos!
When my boss and Hope Tech founder first asked me to start writing blogs for the website, my thoughts were, to be perfectly honest, pretty generic and a little boring. Topics included sharing about all the great things Hope Tech is doing, plans to do, and other general updates. But as it turns out, Hope Tech’s story has weaved itself into my own. It’s been an unexpected blessing to be challenged myself by the same things I seek to teach our students. So I decided to use this opportunity to share my own journey. I’ve found that personal stories are not only generally more entertaining, but also more powerful. Hope Tech really is about breathing hope into the lives of others. Its breathing life in to mine and into our students. My desire is that by sharing our story that same hope will be passed along to you.
In this blog post, I am going to take a step back and paint a general picture of my new home, Oak Park, and what it has taught me these last 6 months living here.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Oak Park neighborhood of Sacramento, hope is something that is severely lacking. The cost of rent has skyrocketed due to recent gentrification, gang violence is stuck in it’s endless cycle, systematic oppression and generational brokenness are the norm. When you walk the streets of Oak Park the hopelessness is almost tangible. For many of the students we interact with, this environment has bred an attitude of apathy. Their city, our world, has not done much to prove to them that positive change is something within their grasp. In fact, it’s convinced them of the exact opposite.
Now, my goal in saying all this is not to create a sense of pity for the neighborhood that I love. Pity is often condescending and projects its own feelings of hopelessness onto another; it will only attempt to alleviate pain, rather than find true healing. I do not pity Oak Park, you see, because I do not fear brokenness. It makes me sad, it makes me angry, but it does not make me fear. Here’s why: It is brokenness itself that plants the seeds for true reflection, humility, honesty, and a quest for justice. These are the very traits needed to spark lasting, positive change. I believe that redemption - the power to take something bad and use it for something good - while rare in our world, is readily accessible. All that’s needed is hope.
These last few months living in Oak Park I have witnessed more humility, honesty, and passion for justice than in any other community I have ever lived in. Residents are committed to fighting for their neighborhood. A few weeks ago I had the privilege of sitting in on a South Oak Park Community Association meeting. In the hour and half I was there I heard about countless programs for the youth, a volunteer day to beautify local parks, urban farming, a non-profit dedicated to providing inexpensive, healthy prepared meals as an alternative to fast food while simultaneously creating jobs for local youth, and more.
My friends in the hood have grit. They know how to hustle, to get what they need in order to survive. I love this, because when you add hope to hustle positive change is inevitable. I do not fear the brokenness in this neighborhood because I have seen its residents respond in hope and hustle. They do not simply see what needs fixing and resign themselves to how things are. In their own way, they have used the Development Cycle (the topic of our last post ADD LINK) to accomplish their goals. They dream about a different reality for Oak Park, develop strategies to solve those problems, and deploy what they’ve found to be successful. While Hope Tech brings a new way to provide mentorship and marketable skills to local youth, there have been people hustling to bring hope to this neighborhood long before we arrived. Those that have come before us provide wonderful partnership and have paved the way for Hope Tech in different ways. It is a privilege for me, as someone new to Oak Park, to be able to participate in the cultivation of positive change. Hope Tech and this hood have restored my hope and inspire me daily.
My friends, Oak Park is an example. It is an example not just of many other broken cities in our world, but also our own lives. How often do we let our hurt and the injustices we suffer breed apathy and defeat in our lives? It’s not that suffering is something light or insignificant. It is extremely significant, but let the greatest meaning in brokenness be the self-reflection, humility, and honesty that is produced rather than apathy. Let us have hope that redemption is real in our world and in our lives. Let brokenness be the catalyst for positive change.