San Diego. A gorgeous place in a beautiful location. Many people think “beach” and “sun” and the pretty people that go along with these two things. They would be correct, to a point, but many people forget to think “city” and remember all of the things that come with this loaded word. I live in one of the poorer neighborhoods in the city. First, let me tell you a little about the poorer parts of San Diego — San Diego is comprised of a couple. One of the poorer parts, the part that I lived in for a long time, consists of a slew of refugees from many parts of the world. The old immigrants are from Vietnam, but many that have moved here recently are from various parts of Africa and some of the Middle East. It’s poor because the people are not educated in American ways and are learning them. It’s poor because they are competing for low-paying American jobs. But that part of town is so rich in culture. It’s got the best food in San Diego, hands down. The families are intact, and they are here because they are trying to make a better life for their kids. Many immigrants are extremely driven and well-educated — that’s how they ended up here in the first place. It’s financially poor. That part of town gets recognized a lot. They get more city money, more grants, and more volunteers to try and help the refugees establish themselves and make a life here. It’s good, they need it.
Now, the part of town I live in is different. I moved here about 4 years ago. This part of town is often overlooked in so many ways. I lived in San Diego for a decade before I even knew it existed, and many people I talk to don’t know where, exactly, it is when I mention it. I live in what is known as Southeast San Diego. This part of San Diego has been poor for generations. It is impoverished in a way that is so deeply etched into the souls of the people here that many of them don’t know how to live life any differently. College has never been an option. Many of the youth are in gangs, but so are their fathers and their grandfathers. Most families are not intact in this part of the city. The schools have the lowest ratings in town and there are no volunteers lining up here to help tutor them. It hurts my heart a little bit to write it this way, but it’s true.
We moved here on purpose because we knew it was a tougher part of town, with the intent of pouring our lives into the community. Can I tell you a little secret? I love it here. I love the people so much. I’ve learned so much from my neighbors and the people I work with, and we’ve been so amazingly blessed in this neighborhood. There is a different kind of family going on here, one that is only found when people have nothing but each other. Our house is always full of random people, and I wouldn’t trade this spot for the world.
What kind of people live where I live? Financially poor, generationally impoverished, gang involved people. People with tough backgrounds and tougher lives looking forward. Real people. Strong people. Some of the bravest people I’ve ever met.