During our Bethany Stories series, we’re hearing stories about our namesake, a town outside Jerusalem where Jesus’ friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus lived. We’re also hearing stories from our Bethany, especially from the past year.
On Sunday May 26th, musician, PhD candidate, and Bethany member Ann Ridge shared a story from the neighborhood, and about the ways a sermon changed her life (who knew!?). Here’s Ann’s Bethany story:
Mine is not a dramatic story. But it is a story of openness, projection, friendship, opportunity, and dare I say, transcendence.
As some of you know I live right up the street on Irving Park Road between Paulina and Hermitage. I bought my house thirty years ago when I wanted a home where I would be able to play music and not disturb my neighbors. At that time my neighbors were older German people who were fine neighbors, but everyone kept to themselves. Since then they have passed on and the new owners have renters, mostly young people who come and go. So, in a way, we have felt a little isolated. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to live in a real Chicago neighborhood with block parties and people getting to know each other. In my most envious moments, I’ve felt a little put out that no one from Paulina or Hermitage ever invited us to a block party. Even though I carved my Halloween pumpkins and religiously put them on my front porch, we’ve never even had a trick-or-treater.
So, last year, when Pastor Vince gave a sermon on being a neighbor during the Front Porch Series, to be honest I can’t remember exactly what he said, but whatever it was it charged me up. After church I marched home determined to reach out to my neighbors. That day, at my first opportunity, I saw our neighbors behind us across the alley—Amy, Chris and their towheaded little boy Jackson, about seven years old. As some of you know Greg and I have a jazz group called The Irving Park Trio that plays at Mrs. Murphy & Son’s Irish Bistro the first Friday of the month. So, I invited them to come an hear us play that Friday night. Amy said, “that sounds just great.”
That Friday night, when we walked into the Bistro to set up our equipment, who was there having dinner but Amy, Chris, Jackson, and their neighbors, Brian, Megan and their little daughter, Amelia. I was thrilled! It was so good to see them and what a wonderful surprise. Once we started to play, I was totally into the music, and if some of you have seen us play you know I’m totally focused on my sheet music and rarely look up. But then I did and what did I see but Amy, Chris, Jackson, Brian and Amelia—all dancing. I was just amazed and what a joy it was to watch them. How alive and fun and good. When we took a break Chris and Amy came up and told us how much they loved the music and would we be willing to play at the block party they were planning for the summer. A block party! “Of course,” I said. We would be happy to play.
The block party was that August and as planned we set up at the end of our block with all the food and people and kids playing scattered along the street. It was a beautiful, light-filled day and so very much fun. At the end of the day I was talking to a neighbor whose father had lived in the building at Paulina and Irving Park. She told me he had been the organizer for the block parties they used to have “back in the day.” It turned out that after her father left, they hadn’t had a block party in thirty years. I suddenly realized during all those years I felt excluded from block parties that never happened. All those years projecting my own thoughts onto the isolation I felt. Perhaps others felt isolated, too. It was a real eye-opener. Perhaps there is a new opportunity and it is right next door.