This was a speech delivered on the 5th of October 2013, by Uche Unogu at the dedication of an initiative to develop a neighborhood park for the community.
A decade ago, I moved into the University Heights Neighborhood on the South side of Indianapolis, for the first time. I remember walking down the street on Otterbein Avenue one sunny afternoon, and a neighbor by the name of Jim Winzeler, waved me towards him and we began a lengthy discussion about Jesus Christ.
He welcomed me to his home for dinner, introduced me to his dogs, his wife and his daughters and overtime, we became very good friends. In fact, when I had my first daughter 7 years ago, Jim’s wife, Cindy, offered and did baby-sit her on certain days while I attended classes at the University of Indianapolis. This story says a lot about the spirit, the warmth, the hospitality, the friendliness, the kindness and the generosity of the University Heights Neighborhood. I’ve tried to move elsewhere, I always fail, I can’t, I’ve been called to be here. I love being here. Over the years, I’ve found this neighborhood to be quiet, safe, clean and walk able. I call it “Hoosier hospitality on steroids”.
BUT, that is if you are able to find any neighbors to talk to at all. You see in this place, everyone lives secluded lives, lives mostly spent in the comfort of our homes You will seldom find neighbors walking around the street, to strike a conversation with, especially, during the WINTER. Its hard to meet new neighbors because to do so would mean you risking a knock on their door. As you knock, you are afraid of how the neighbor will react to you, an unsolicited solicitor. The neighbor too might be afraid of the sudden stranger knocking on their door, wondering if you are safe and to be trusted.
And that ladies and Gentlemen is what brings us to this place, to this space today. This pocket park initiative, a partnership between the University of Indianapolis, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, and the University Heights Neighborhood will aim to enhance the sense of community here. That University of Indianapolis students can be educated here, can serve here, and get to know their neighbors better and get plugged into this community. That KIB stakeholders can know that they have created one more inspired place that has empowered and strengthened a neighborhood. That neighbors can meet in this place for events, for relaxation, for recreation, for education, and get to know each other better, building trust, building bonds of friendship, building bridges strong enough to sustain the knock on the door.