Over the summer, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit my church’s sister church in Compton, Calif. One of the most impressionable aspects of my trip was how different the community was from the one here in Highlands Ranch, but not in the way you would expect it to be.
I heard a lot about how bad of a neighborhood I was going into prior to my trip, but I honestly tried my hardest to make sure it didn’t effect how I approached people or situations that I was faced with.
The city, at least where we stayed, was extremely close knit. Family weighed importance above anything, and it was apparent in everything they did.
Unlike around the HR bubble, individuals in cities like Compton have to rely on each other to thrive. It isn’t a complete every-man-for-himself, dog-eat-dog environment. Money is scarce, so while it is important, it isn’t all that there is to life. It isn’t simply a possession the way it’s often seen here. It’s a necessity, but a necessity for everyone, and that’s better understood there than here.
The “they should work for their own money” may be apparent, but not in necessarily the same way. What I’ve realized, consequently, is that the upper classes aren’t as likely to give back. With more wealth comes more individualism and a habit to care more for oneself than others. Because many people in places like this HR bubble don’t understand what it’s like to not have enough, they don’t feel the need to help those who may.
It seems to me that the residents throughout the city in downtown Los Angeles also were better at reading emotions and acting in an altruistic manner. The time they spend around each other makes them nearly professional at understanding one another. I was impressed by how quickly they even formed relationships with some of the members of my church.
My youth director, Gary Knutson, visits this church once every five years for the summer mission trip. He and many of the residents and church faculty members have long lasting relationships, even despite living more than 15 hours away from one another. He often says to me that if I’m ever in a bad situation anywhere in California, the people he knows (and now the people I know) that live in south L.A. will be there to help before anyone else.
That got me thinking, would the people I consider to be my closest friends do the same? My group is pretty tight-knit, so I’d like to think that most of them would, but for some I still understand that they can be more selfish than not. I would admit that even I’m more selfish than nearly anyone I met during my time in California.
Upon my return to Colorado, I may have been glad to be home, but I missed the environment of Compton. When talking to my friends and family about my trip, I only ever found myself getting mad and thinking about how much everyone around me needed a course in cultural sensitivity.
“Anyone who would voluntarily live there and force their kids to do the same isn’t a loving parent,” was probably the worst thing I had to deal with hearing. I found it massively disrespectful for anyone to insinuate that they could grasp and understand a situation that they’ve never had to deal with.
Even if the understanding was there, it was still a massively rude thing to say. To leave Compton, for most, would be to leave behind a home they’ve had for years and the family members they’re closest to.
Behind that was another thing that surprised me about Compton: everything was maintained to be pretty nice. I commented on it once, without checking my thoughts before allowing them to form into words. As it came out of my mouth, I realized how rude I sounded in saying “there are neighborhoods much worse than this maybe thirty or forty minutes from my house.” One of the teenaged youth members told me how much he and his family care about his home and the amount of pride they take in ensuring that things are kept up and well.
It never occurred to me before how sacred something like a home was to the community members, and it made me realize how I take my own home for granted. The smaller houses, even with bullet holes in the sides or shattered windows, were so well taken care of because they were more than just a place of living, they were homes. My house is taken care of, as all houses in Highlands Ranch are, but no one truly cares about its condition, whether I’m speaking about the surface or what’s inside.