Forging a New Relationship

I grew up in Novi, which is a suburb 30 minutes west of Detroit. My family is from Detroit, though - my parents grew up in the city, and my grandparents and great-grandparents all lived in the city.

The dialogue about Detroit in my family has always featured a dichotomy of us and them. This thinking divides Metro Detroit across a variety of lines - race, class, and Eight Mile. Most of my family members had strong opinions about things that were going on in Detroit, but they were distinctly opinions of people who left the city, consistently affirming that decision. As a kid, I thought this was oversimplified, but didn't know any more than that.

When I moved to the other side of the state for college, I started to notice things that made it clear that I grew up in Metro Detroit. In my freshman year, I noticed that not everyone had a minor obsession with identifying car models, and that not all adults knew their way around Detroit. It was clear to me that I had some kind of relationship to the city, but I didn’t know what that was, or what it meant.

I’m here this summer because I want to forge that relationship for myself. I want to gain a better understanding of the city, independant of my family’s baggage.

I’m also here to foster spiritual transformation. In middle and high school, I didn’t like going to church, but I loved going to camp. For me, it was a place where I could connect with God on my own terms, and a place where I could ask questions. I felt like I was at home when I went to camp, a feeling that I didn’t have anywhere else.

When I was in high school, I also went to Appalachia Service Project. ASP is like Motown Mission - they send groups of youth to fix up homes in Appalachia. I found a great deal of meaning in the experiance of moving out of my comfort zone to serve others. It also made me want to find other ways to serve.

I doubt that I was alone in that. For a lot of youth, sitting in a church pew isn't much of a spiritual experiance. Even now, I feel closer to God when I'm working in the garden at Michigan Urban Farming Initative than when I'm singing a hymn indoors. Combining the outdoors, service work, and God has been transformational for me, and I want to provide that same transformational experience for young people.

Samantha Macy is a senior at Western Michigan University, where she studies Public Relations.