Our Dislocated Body

south-tampa-mapIt is important in life to know where you are from. I spent most of my childhood years in a beautiful city named Tampa, Florida. Tampa is home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the best café con leche in the world, and four roads that remind me of my privilege in life. The area I lived in was called South Tampa. The northern boundary of South Tampa is Kennedy Boulevard, Gandy is to the South, Westshore to the–west, and Bayshore to the east. If you go too far east or west, you will find yourself swimming in water. Most people who have lived in South Tampa for a significant period of time were told at one point in their lives to never go past Kennedy or Gandy, for nothing of need is beyond those borders.  I found over the years that this was not true.

South Tampa Simba

Prior to my life as a Pastor, I served in the public school systems as a Speech & Language Pathologist. The first position I held was across the Northern boundary of South Tampa. Many of the children were the children of migrant farm workers. I remember doing language evaluations and being shocked how many of the children were missing the same word—bathtub. After several home visits, I realized the reason for this. Most of the families lived in make shift houses that did not have bathtubs. Some lived in homes with no floors. The children were allowed to wash themselves in the water fountains at the school for the administration knew they had nowhere to bathe. I could not imagine there were children in my own country living in these conditions. This would not be allowed where I was from.

After returning from graduate school, I took my second position in Tampa and it was in a school across the Southern boundary Gandy. This school was home to children primarily from low-income African American families. I remember being surprised over and over again by how many parents were working 2-3 jobs to support their families.   I also remember the school breaking ground on its new library and the shelves sitting empty for the longest time. I really wrestled with this because I just couldn’t understand how these vast divides in my community existed.  A library would not have stood empty in a school where I was from.

I am who I am today because of the way these opportunities to serve shaped me. I did not have everything I needed on the inside of the South Tampa boundaries for real community happens when we cross the lines that divide us, however those lines begin to form.dislocated potatohead  So often, the human body is dislocated from one another. We are separated by boundaries, we live at a distance from one another, and our sense of community lacks because of this. We understand who we really are when we see life in relationship with neighbors we live distanced from. Race divides us, economics divide us, sexuality divides us, language divides us, faith tradition divides us, experience and education divide us, and privilege or lack of privilege divides us as a people.

Honestly, I have to share that it is much easier to cross streets that divide us, then to recognise that there is no journey that I can go on that will erase the privilege that lives in me.  The only thing I can do is to continue to learn about these divides and fight for others to have the same privileges as me.

What might it look like for us to study the maps that contain the dividing lines and begin to work more intentionally to break them down?

With you on the journey,

Michelle Shrader

***Salary Support for my Individual Volunteer in Mission work can be received through this blog.  The donation button will lead you to the United Methodist Advance–an online giving mechanism that allows you to donate tax deductible monies towards mission engagements all around the world.  Check it out!



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