I am coming up on seven years of living in Conway and these seven years have been associated with a beautiful neighborhood called Oakwood Village Trailer Park. In these seven years, I by God’s grace and the help of others within the park and outside the park, work to communicate the goodness that exists within the community. Granted, I acknowledge the difficulties which exist in the community. I understand for many who live in Conway, Oakwood is nothing more than the out of sight, out of mind black hole for everything dark, sinful, and criminal. There is this apparent delusion, a prejudice, a self-righteousness that permeates some of our citizens who believe and thus speak of Oakwood as the only place in Conway where meth cooks, prostitution walks, domestic abuse thunders, and marriages fall apart. I don’t know what is worse, the man who walks naked and knows it or the man who believes he is in a three piece suit and in reality is naked as well.
This past week I had a very heartfelt conversation with one of my board members’ who has been a long term resident in the Oakwood Village Trailer Park. She came to me very angry and upset because she had been told by two different people who live outside of Oakwood, “every other trailer is a crack house.” She was visibly upset and rightly so. The statements made to her were condescending and ignorant statements that cast a broad brush across a community of people that have become family and friends. This is that bullshit which continues to paint a picture of people in a false reality. Now you may be upset at the fact I used such an adjective to describe the comments but I hope that you would not miss the forest because of that small tree. The fact of the matter is we have this propensity to dehumanize men and women who are fighting to live one day at a time.
Are there drug problems in Oakwood? Sure. Are there unsavory type individuals who take advantage of weaker individuals so that can achieve some semblance of power and prestige on the streets? Yes. At the same time in Oakwood there are men and women who are valuable contributors to our city. They serve at Hendrix College; build our new homes as brick layers and hangers of drywall. They are the men who have an entrepreneurial spirit and this spring will beat the streets to do lawn care. They are the men and women who hope to get a call from the Conway School District so they can work as a substitute in the kitchen serving meals to our kids. They are the women who are stay at home mothers with their young babies and teach them new words like “copasetic.” They are humans-good or bad-made in the image and likeness of God.
I appeal to that fact because I live in the Bible belt. Our city has its number of church facilities and by implication attendees on various days of the week. We have read Genesis 1:27. Since that is the case, I make an appeal to those who open a bible, attend a church, or volunteer at some type of aid organization; remember every person you see is an image bearer of God. It doesn’t matter if they live in a different place or make a different amount of income; none of us have the authority to denigrate other. If we cannot be part of the solution, it would be better for us to remain silent and not be another part of the problem.
We can all be better people.