Home Alone

It was in Detroit that I first realized a career in lay ministry requires not only plenty of self-care, but other intrepid souls with whom to share the trip. My apartment building sat in the middle of the block on Detroit’s aging southwest side. I had been living there for two years, and whenever I would come home on a summer evening, the neighborhood children would stop their street games so that I could pull into the driveway.

Sometimes the girls came up as I was getting out of the car and asked if they could water my flowers. Three-year-old Olivia especially liked to lug the green plastic watering can from flower to flower, dousing the driveway, half the lawn, and her small red sneakers before drenching each flower and commanding it to be pretty and grow strong.

My small flat was decorated with paintings I had done and with folk art and souvenirs from my travels in Israel and Italy, Guatemala and Japan. With a master’s degree and a decent paying job in urban parish ministry, I could have afforded to live in the suburbs but chose to settle in southwest Detroit. I was highly idealistic at that point and had made a personal commitment to live with the poor: a gray and nebulous promise that felt stronger on good days, but pretty wobbly on bad ones. I often wondered how long I would “make it,” a little voice inside telling me I was “doing my time,” like a stint in the missions, but that I could leave...

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About the Author

Karen Rushen