Inner City Diary
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We've got the best bars in Winnipeg
February 24, 2002
I got the call on my cell phone while in South Dakota. We were visiting with my wife’s family. We had driven down there for the funeral service of Virginia’s dad. I could tell from the voice that something was wrong back in Winnipeg.

“Someone broke into your house while you guys were gone. We’ve already called the cops and a few of us are over here cleaning it up and fixing the window they used for access.” I looked over at Virginia, not sure how to tell her what had happened. This was not the time for more bad news, but I guess there’s never a good time.

Feeling helpless because of our distance from home, we got a few details and thanked God for our friends, who were doing what we couldn’t. When we got back, we arranged a visit with a window bar salesman.

It was one of those things we figured we would never do. I’ve lived in cities like New York and Chicago. It seems like some parts of town are totally barricaded behind an ugly assortment of window bars and shutters. I’ve heard of people who are so afraid of a burglary that they keep their windows shut and barricaded on the hottest nights of the year – and die from the heat. I’ve never really liked the idea of window bars. It’s almost like you’re imprisoning yourself rather than locking out intruders. We both hated the idea, but figured it was a wise move to provide a disincentive to opportunists.

When I opened the door for the window bar guy, he probably had no idea why I looked grumpy. We shook hands and Virginia and I looked at a book which showed samples of some of his work.

Eyes clouded by resentment, the window bars all looked pretty much the same to me. Virginia, on the other hand, looked closely at the pictures. She started asking questions. Then she turned the book upside down while looking at one picture.

“I’d like those window bars in that picture, but only if you install them upside down,” she announced. I asked her why. She said, “If you install them upside down, that design looks a heart. I can work with that.”

I sat back in awe. I figured, “Martha Stewart’s got nothing on her!”

Over the years, Virginia has done lots of that. Doing the best with what we’ve got. Garage sales and bargain hunting. Lush flowers crowded into boxes and pots in windows. Carefully sculpted lawn and neatly arranged yard.

I know her childhood dreams on the farm didn’t revolve around a little place in the inner city of Winnipeg. When we first moved into our home we used the washroom at 7-11, and kept our frozen foods out in the veranda. We got some help fixing the house, but Virginia has made it our home. The harshness of window bars is softened with flowers and crafts. Colors and lights, candles and curtains, carefully arranged furniture.

People used to bug us about living in this neighbourhood. People with lots of money and huge yards. People that don’t share Virginia’s determination and imagination. No place is perfect, but I’m proud of what Virginia has created in our home.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not just about decorating. I see that same thread of creativity and determination woven through her parenting, friendship, volunteering and work. Accomplishments and activities too long to list on this page.

All are a reflection of someone who likes to love where she lives and enjoy what she does.

She’s not big on politics or psycho-babble about issues. Her tests for life are pretty basic – “Am I doing the best with what I have?” “Can I do more to enjoy what I see, what I do, or who I am?” I spend lots of time in meetings, talking with people about the complexity of inner-city issues. Most would really benefit from such an honest approach.

She’s put up with lots. Lived with less than what she dreamed of.

But she’s given me more than she’ll ever know.
Copyright 2002
Rev. Harry Lehotsky
Rev. Harry Lehotsky is Director of New Life Ministries, a community ministry in the inner-city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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New Life Ministries
514 Maryland Street
Winnipeg, Mb R3G 1M5
(204) 775-4929