The photo is framed in our foyer. Snapped innocuously enough as the two of us strolled through the Tenderloin a year ago, the photograph spoke to my soul. Since then, the image has been imprinted to the back of closed eyelids, seeping through my conscious. To me it has become the artistic representation of my two years spent in San Francisco.
I first spoke the words to Robyn in late 2011. We had recently relocated to the south end of the mission district. Bicycling the early-morning surface streets of an autumn San Francisco gave me clarity of thought not found when previously underground. And as graduate school decisions, although not imminent, looked on the horizon, I told her:
I think I'm falling in love with San Francisco.
By love I mean a deep passion for the city and all its residents to prosper. By love I mean a desire for beautiful public spaces to emerge from curbside parking or abandoned lots. By love I mean removing the shackles of violence and slavery from our "unlovable" neighborhoods. By love I mean innovations in the building industry to reduce our energy consumption and footprint. By love I mean intentionally creating space, conversations, or opportunities for people to ask spiritual questions about God. By love I mean feeling the shared pain of the community when injustice occurs. By love I mean...
This is new for me. Never before have I loved my city, no, not like this. I had constructed hazy warm recollections- most likely not my own but instead mental recreations of stories told to me- of my early years in Santa Barbara and Pasadena. My relationship with Murrieta was like my relationship with my first car: the Ford Taurus was functional, spacious, and sometimes frustrating, but I never knew anything different. San Luis Obispo was a place of tremendous growth in my life, and certainly when the beautiful hills turned green in springtime I exclaimed "I love SLO!" more than once. But on reflection I see that was a surface love, an infatuation and fondness for a beautiful and important location. As I grew and matured, SLO seemed a location ever the same, a location unwilling to ask the same questions I held in my soul.
San Francisco is an easy place to love. We can bike and bus everywhere, instead of sitting in traffic. We have incredible community events such as Off The Grid. It is more convenient to try to live as Ordinary Extremists. All which make San Francisco a fantastic training ground to learn to love a city. Perhaps in future years Robyn and I will be called towards a geographic location less glamorous, less affluent, less... easy. Perhaps not. Either way, my soul now has a new tagline:
Love your city.
Part 2: Love your Neighborhood
Part 3: Love your Campus?