Neglect

I drive through the east side of Detroit on my way to and from work, and I often take surface streets even though it adds a few minutes to my commute. Some of the neighborhoods I drive through are relatively intact, but others are in shambles. Businesses, houses and garages, abandoned. City blocks with only a few buildings still standing.

“Neglected” is the word that comes to mind. I sometimes say it out loud as I drive, “neglected.” I say it with a deep sadness.

I am both attracted to and repelled by the sights along my commute. I force myself to look, though, to commit to memory the consequences of neglect. Broken windows, roofs caved in, overgrown lawns.

I try to imagine how this happened, which is really not that difficult. The neglect probably started small, one house on a street abandoned, and then another and another. Perhaps neighbors stepped up to maintain the yards of abandoned homes, but that can only go on for so long. Eventually, when enough people just walk away from their homes and businesses, things just deteriorate.

This morning, as I contemplated the neglect I saw on my commute, I was aware of an inner conflict. In some kind of cosmic sense, I realized that I relate to the buildings I drive past. This city and these buildings are a part of my history. They are a part of me.

And in their state of disrepair and dilapidation, they beg me to consider how my plight is linked to theirs.

What am I neglecting? I wondered. Not so much externally, but internally. What parts of my inner self, my inner life, am I neglecting?

I remember a prayer Jim once gave me. “I saw this,” he said “and thought it was the perfect prayer for you.” The prayer read:

Lord, help me to accept the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful it is.

I remember reading those words that first time and gasping when I reached the word “beautiful.” “Ugly” was the word I had anticipated.

Jim was right that I would need God’s help to accept anything beautiful about myself. I could not even see it, let alone accept it.

Now, driving through these neglected neighborhoods, I hear God inviting me to accept those parts of myself that I have neglected—before they crumble.

Perhaps this city also has an inner beauty which was not recognized or accepted and I am being invited to look beyond the exterior to see the truth that is Detroit’s beauty.

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7 thoughts on “Neglect

  1. Anne Marie Lom

    I am grateful that you connected exterior sites with interior realities. It is a good meditation for me as I learn more about each part of this immense building we call “Motherhouse”. It often does tell me about myself. Peace and all good to you these last days of November.

    Reply
    1. Madeline Bialecki Post author

      Anne Marie, I look at these buildings in Detroit and say, “I am this building.” Some are falling down and others have been magnificently restored. I would imagine the Motherhouse has lots of significance–even the name is wonderful to roll around inside my head.
      Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

      Reply
      1. Anne Marie Lom

        Yes, I came to live at this Motherhouse when I was 14 and “grew up” here as well as with my biological family in another city. It is a blessing to have more than one “home”.

  2. John

    My first thought, Madeline, was how did we get this way? Why do we focus so solidly on the negative that we forget the positive? There’s a lot of disapproval out there and it constantly reminds us of our deficits. And there are precious few voices of encouragement and positivity.
    Once again I think of my mentor, Emily Dickinson, who wrote “We never know how high we are/Till we are called to rise; /And then, if we are true to plan, /Our statures touch the skies—.”
    Perhaps if we were reminded more often of what’s beautiful about each other we wouldn’t nearly think so destructively.

    Reply
  3. Madeline Bialecki Post author

    Thanks John for your thoughtful comments and for sharing more of Ms Emily. I was trained not to be “puffed up” or proud, so it is very difficult for me to focus on positives about myself, even when others tell me. I know it is where God calls me–to sit in that place where I see negative about myself and to let God (and others) love that part into wholeness.
    I will tell you something I think is beautiful about you, John, is how you have transformed your life over the past ten years. You have grown so much into become the real you; you inspire me. I also love your love of Emily Dickinson. I have a similar attachment to Etty Hillesum. Maybe if I spent more time with her writings, her words would pop into my head as Ms. Emily’s words flow through you. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply

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