I feel like a girl in A Prairie Home Companion. I can picture myself, as I pack my things into the back of a wagon, saying, “ We’ve lost the farm, Ma!” Like thousands of other families in Metro Detroit, my family’s home is in foreclosure. Come March, for the first time in my life, I will be homeless. My family is going to be scattered across the state like dust. Everyone will be heading to Grand Rapids, and I will be moving into the city.
Detroit has always been an enigma in my life. I grew up in a suburb, went to nice schools, and spent my summers at our cottage on Lake Huron. Detroit seemed like a tragic Never-land where no one learned to fly. Driving into the city on I-75 was reminiscent of driving across a drawbridge. Our excursions to this island city, suspended in the middle of rejection and neglect, sparked a love affair.
I have always been drawn to places that have an air of romanticism and grit. I recently moved back to the states after living in Ulsan, South Korea, an industrial city nicknamed “the Detroit of Korea.” That’s right! I graduated from college and, searching for my own Shangri-La, flew halfway around the world, and wound up back in “Detroit.” I took it as a sign that this is where I was always meant to be.
I want to see Detroit breathe again. My parents’ generation grew up watching the city suffocate itself. They saw the riots, crime, and undeniable inequality unveil the city’s dirty little secrets on the evening news. I don’t know how they will react to my new home. My father will likely shake his head at me and worry as he looks out my window at the burned-down house teetering next to mine. My sister will likely keep her visits short, and without my young niece and nephew.
The city has lost many things in its long life, and I understand that loss. I empathize with anyone who has lost their home, is losing their home or is at risk of losing their home. In a way, the city and I are sisters. We mirror each other and share similar traits and characteristics and, like all good sisters, we must be there for one another.
For the year 2012, I have committed myself to serving my new home. I am an AmeriCorps volunteer at a Detroit based nonprofit. I want to help the people of Detroit because they are my neighbors. I want to heal the broken heart of the city because mine is broken too. I have no immediate ties to this place, and have the utmost respect for the people who have stayed through the good and the bad. I admire the people that have rallied their fellow citizens to stand up and demand change. There is a spirit in this city and its people that never shakes.
When my last box of things is dropped on the floor of my newly rented room, I know what my father will say. A simple man of few words, he will look at me and say what he always says, “Everything will be alright.” It is his mantra for every one of life’s little setbacks. As I unpack my things, I may take a moment, look out over the city, and reassure it that “Everything will be alright.” I love Detroit and I have faith in it.