Thursday, August 19, 2010

10 reasons I love living in the 'hood

I grew up in a middle-class subdivision considered to be the "rich" part of town - although, it was in an area of California where I'm not entirely sure there actually was a "rich" part. It was very safe (except that one time...), and we had a very comfortable lifestyle. I didn't buy brand names all the time, but I had most things I wanted - except a cat that wasn't frighteningly agressive toward me.

So when I moved to Texas, went to a snooty private school (sorry about that again, mom & dad..), got married & moved into a lake-view apartment that I loved, I was a happy, comfortable camper. Just like always.

Then we moved to Dallas. God tricked me (no, really, He did.) into moving to the 'hood. I didn't realize it until the papers were signed, our stuff was moved and walls were painted. I just walked outside one day to see that I wasn't in comfy middle-class America anymore, and it was a little frightening. Although, still not as frightening as my cat ambushing me in the hallway. What frightened me wasn't the people or the place - just the major change that I knew it would have to have on me. This place is full of people struggling to make ends meet, school-age kids wandering the neighborhood when they should be in a classroom and parks that were desolate rather than joyful. But these are His people - people that are close to His heart, and those for which He says He is an advocate. I'm not sure I ever want to go back to middle-class America with its green grass, clean parks and shiny cars. Really, I don't. Because I feel like I can see His heart better from here.

There are times that this neighborhood has given me a great big, ugly look at myself and the things I've thought were important. I am SO THANKFUL for this. There is a reason that Jesus talks about it being harder to get to Heaven when you're rich. Money is such a distraction and makes you lose sight of reality. I get to see reality every day, and it is life-changing. It has to be. We are seeing that life-change as we dig in to deep relationships with our neighbors and walk through hard times with them. This is my home and exactly where I'm supposed to be! I didn't (and still don't) always see it that way, and I crave the comfort of smooth sidewalks and pretty things, but I know this is worth it. In the spirit of seeing the positive, which I've struggled with lately, here are a few reasons why I LOVE living here:

1. Living next to a major highway is kind of like having a beach house. The sound of cars zooming past puts me to sleep like nothing else (except Benadryl). Every now and then the driver of a semi truck will honk his horn, but I just pretend it's a sick seagull. The only real difference is that you can't throw on a swimsuit and play in traffic.

2. Walmart is right around the corner, always open and I'm always the fanciest one there. Sometimes, it's comforting to know that, in some places, it's still ok to pick up bread and peanut butter in your jammie pants. And that's really what life's about.

3. I have a pretty promising future in local government. We have attended approximately one local government function, and it happened to take place in a parking lot. However, by the end of the 30 minute session, we were offered two seats on the board of the Parks & Rec Department, by a woman who is running for mayor. We gots connections.

4. Dinner parties usually get planned at someone else's house. It's not that I don't like to host. I really do. It's just that sometimes it's easier to maintain focus at events and Bible studies when people don't jump up and run outside because they just saw a guy on a horse trot past your front door.

5. Everything I could ever need is within walking (or biking) distance. Within 1.5 miles of my house, there is a Walmart, a Sonic, a Blockbuster, a McDonald's (just for the ice cream cones), 14 dentist offices, 7 walk-in medical care offices and a really sketchy convenience store. What else is there?

6. I'm (kind of, and very slowly) overcoming my fear of large bugs. In the beginning, I was catching roaches under cups, putting phone books on top (so they can't escape) and waking up my husband to tell him it will be waiting for him in the morning. Today, I throw the can of Raid at them from a distance and promptly call the authorities (Terminix). Progress.

7. Vacuuming doesn't take very long. It takes about 10 minutes to vacuum my 1,000 square feet of paradise.

8. Walking outside is like cracking open the Urban Dictionary, which makes me impressive among my city friends. I led a pretty sheltered life as a kid, and I'm making up for it now. My 14-year-old neighbor is teaching me so much, including the fact that I'm old and have bad taste in music. Psh. Whatev.

9. I know where to get fresh poultry. And goats. About two blocks from my house, there is a goat farm (or just a family that likes a LOT of goats) and a herd (gaggle? flock? pack?) of chickens. No, I'm not planning to eat them. But I know where I'm going for dinner if the world falls apart and they close Walmart.

10. People are very real. I've never met a group of folks who are as raw as the ones I get to see and talk to every day - whether they're saying "Hello," "Thank you" or "What are you doing here?" I don't ever have to question their sincerity.

I love this place and the people around us. It's taken me a while, but I am thoroughly thankful for the chance to get out of my middle-class state of mind and to dive into a neighborhood that challenges my worldview and simply will not allow me to get swept away in the culture of Dallas.