People from California get blamed for a lot of things in Idaho. Housing costs are rising because of people moving here from California. Traffic congestion is worse because of all the newcomers from California. Jobs are being taken by people from California. And the list goes on and on. If there is something wrong in Idaho, it is because of all the people from California. It is easy to do the blame game. It is harder to do the work of understanding the many factors that have led to the problems mentioned here.
I am one of those people. I moved here from California just over four years ago. I moved here for a variety of reasons; and did encounter some hostility when people discovered I was from California.
My immediate neighbors were very welcoming. We received food and gifts within a few days of moving in. People stopped by to introduce themselves and share recommendations for area activities.
The wider neighborhood was less than welcoming, and when a family from California moved in less than a block away, their car was egged and several people said, not another family from California!
All of our neighborhoods have been affected by the influx of people new to Idaho. They are moving here from several different states, not just California. What is our response to these new people?
We can be affirming and welcoming, or we can be accusers and blamers. It is an intentional choice, one that can be influenced by our faith. Idaho is the fastest growing state in the country. We have an opportunity to welcome the stranger, to lift up the needy, to connect others to people and activities and services that may benefit them.
It is hard work being a good neighbor, in the face of many challenges. We can work together to build trust and make our neighborhoods into a community. Our different backgrounds can lead to exciting ways of being together. We can create something new, even as some may hang onto ideas of what was or what should be. We are co-creating with God something unique and special as we welcome and support others. And when we welcome others, we are welcoming God.
God, you are with us always, through all the changes in our neighborhoods and communities. You lead us from one place to the next. Help us to be co-creators with you of new beginnings and new relationships as we welcome the new people all around us. Free us from our fears and hostility so that we can trust one another and put our trust in you. Amen.