By Dan Crain

ATLANTA – There is a coffee shop in Atlanta that is extremely close to heaven on earth. It is situated beautifully on the Chattahoochee River.

Recently I decided to go there and to do some work. I got up early, and I was the first customer at 8 am. I strategically sat at on the corner of the deck, overlooking the river, trees and pool. Heaven had just come crashing to earth.

Except there was one problem. Another person decided to make the deck her personal workspace. She began making phone calls, and her voice was loud – so loud that it interrupted my concentration and work.

How could she barge in on what was my place?

I mean, I woke up early to get to this special place. It was my mine.

This happens all the time, right?

We show up and think that whatever we see is ours.

This has been happening throughout world history. The Romans showed up and thought everything was theirs. The Anglos showed up in what was called “The New World” and claimed this country as their own.

Northerners move to the South and think the "new" space is theirs.

People migrate from the suburbs to the city, thinking this urban area is “their” space, claiming it as "their" neighborhood. Eventually these new city dwellers push out the poor through a process called gentrification.

What happens when this occurs?

One person or people group is displaced. They lose their "home," be it their dwellings or a neighborhood and its character.

This happens in the geographical and relational sense. We show up and tend to push people into what we want them to be, with little regard for their history or to what God has been doing in their lives.

We want to transform neighborhoods and old homes and longtime mom-and-pop businesses, to make them  respectable, neat and tidy. The root of this you ask? Control.

When I grew up with my four brothers and cousin in Bumpville, Pa., we used to frequent the Gorsline’s swimming pool, over the hill two miles away. We went there all the time. Sometimes we were the only ones there. You know what happened when we came over the crest of the hill and saw others in the pool? We were angry. Why? This was our pool. And why did we think it was our pool? Because we had spent the most time there, and now wanted to control it.

What we didn’t know or consider was that the pool – this spot – was never ours to begin with.

As we live in the City of Atlanta, we believe we are called to respect the people who were here long before we showed up.  We are called to listen extremely well these people as we also seek to follow what the spirit is asking us to do. We believe we are called to share this space with as many people as God brings along our path.

We are called to steward everything. We are called to love longtime residents, and to love the most vulnerable and marginalized among them.

This space was never ours. We are called to hold all that God has given us very loosely. After all,  it all belongs to Him.

Dan Crain and family

Dan Crain and family

Dan Crain is a liaison/trainer in South Atlanta for Polis Institute. He can be reached at dan@polisinstitute.org.

Consider signing up for Dignity Serves, a six-week course that helps you rethink the way we serve others in our community. It teaches you to see problems differently and respond in a way that empowers those you serve rather than just meeting their immediate needs.