Dear New Jersey,
I have so many things to say as we get ready to leave you. We have been through so much together these last six years. It has been tough at times but I like to think that we won you over in the end. For a while we weren't sure if you liked us or not, but we killed you (murdered, really) with kindness and you didn't have much of a choice but to accept us. I remember pulling in with our U-Haul truck to the three ring circus that was our house closing. It was standing room only in that tiny room with a round table not big enough for all the lawyers, brokers, real estate agents, and us commonfolk. Jersey accents were flying, tempers were high, tears were flowing, and I'm pretty sure someone asked us to do something illegal before it was all over. Welcome to New Jersey, Pounds', you aren't in Kansas anymore.
The first month in our new old house, amid wallpaper stripping and detoxing it from years of cigarette smoke, we slept on a mattress on the floor of our room. I lay awake each night listening to the noise on the street, wondering what in the world we had done, praying for sleep and for the morning to come. Someone would shout and it sounded like they were right outside our window. What were they shouting about at 3 in the morning? This was different.
We would walk down the streets of New Brunswick and pray for the people we saw, not knowing anyone and trying to read their faces--would they accept us, would they accept Him? It was so strange, so full of strangers, but love came quickly to us. We started to see the same faces over and over, started to notice the personality of the city. We became fixtures at Starbucks on George Street, the nexus of the New Brunswick universe. We spoke to the regulars and became part of the inner circle of people who spend most of their working hours plugged in and sipping all day on a Grande mild with Hazelnut.
Good things started happening, God began building his church. Someone was saved and we baptized him in the ocean. We moved from a small apartment to a playhouse, then a hotel, then office space, a night club, a school. We asked you how we could help and you cynically pointed out many needs. Let's see if they really will... You gave us your trust in the end and I think we loved you more for making us work for it.
Thank you for teaching us so much about relationships and service and living in community. Maybe our biggest lesson from you was how to share our lives with our neighbor-what it means to love her as we love ourselves, to give freely to him of our time or money or shelter. You gave us some of the best friends we will ever have. For all of the knocks you get for being brash or quick tempered, we have found friendship in your Kind, Generous, and Loyal.
And there is one more thing that I would like to thank you for. You gave us a son when we thought we may not ever have one. Maybe Jude was like a parting gift that you wanted to give as we were making plans to leave--you wanted us to take some New Jersey up to Vermont perhaps. This kindness I will never forget. I will always be thankful for God bringing us together. And even if this was the only fruit of our lives in New Jersey, I would spend six years all over again to have him.
Oh, New Jersey. I won't miss the jug handles, our gang member neighbors, or the property taxes. I probably won't miss the latino music played loud on my street everyday, or having to move my car on Mondays between 8 and 9 and Thursdays between 9 and 10. I for sure won't miss having to bundle all of our cardboard into 24 inch squares tied with twine for the 3rd Tuesday of the month. But I will miss you.