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Every now and then something strikes me about my neighborhood and reminds me I am in a foreign land. Every now and then.

A few days ago it was 2 little girls across the street trying to cool down in the afternoon heat. Some folks have pools, hoses, they had a red ice-box cooler spilling out with water and their grins were huge as they took turns to huddle into it.

Last night, a peaceful, surprisingly cool June evening Ivan and I ride bikes down the streets, across the freeway pedestrian bridge, through Jefferson neighborhood to the local panderia- my favorite shop for Mexican sweet bread. I note the dim streets and graffiti tagging and am thankful for my strong brown husband riding by me. Unafraid, but grateful.

We sit at the local Holmes park and a friendly game of baseball is in play.  There is one white woman in the crowd, all others Hispanic. We slowly bike past a crew of Asian youth engrossed in a volleyball match. A young African-American man is huddled under a blanket. His world of belongings on a cart. For as many homeless as I’ve seen, with Fresno at the top, it still breaks my heart.

We pedal homeward and ride through the wire mesh tunnel over the freeway, noting all the graffiti and run into some neighbors. We meet, Alicia, lily and others. We invite them over to play any time.

I read the newspaper this morning and find myself captivated by an article on a inner-city high school just a few streets down that started a Rugby team. Their members made of the most unassuming boys pulling 2 jobs working in the fields with their parents to make ends meet, schooling and finding time to play. They tell of one member ‘Nico’ heart and soul of the team who went on to inspire them to success and how he was fatally stabbed in the middle of the season. He wasn’t involved in drugs, gangs, just a tagger who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. His artwork was ‘CLIF’ and he lived on McKenzie. My mind wanders to our  ride across the freeway pedestrian bridge I rode last night… and I saw CLIF painted on it…

My heart goes out to these youth. They are hardened by life’s atrocities and many will have scars for life. I know, I’m just now uncovering so many scars my loved one has hidden away. I smile at the girls across the street, and am grateful for their resilience and creativity. No pool, no worries, an ice box will do.

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