When safety and charm become dangerous

When we moved into our little bungalow of a house 2 years ago, I was excited and well, a little bit bitter. At no point in our home search did I intend to leave the boundaries of the city proper. I certainly didn’t intend to end up in the same charming little waterfront town a few minutes north of Seattle that I had grown up in. I sound a bit bratty right now, but please, hear me out.

Last weekend, Tim and I went to a movie at the little one screen theater in the heart of our town. Honestly, this place is adorable. Before the movie started, I overheard some women talking about how nice it is in this town and how they wish they lived here. Aaaaaw, how cute. In this moment, as I sit in a cozy little theater on a cold day, I totally agree with you.

Everyone who visits finds our little waterfront town charming – which is it – and beautiful – which it is. I feel safe going on my morning runs. I love having a little bit bigger yard than we would in most other desirable neighborhoods. The public schools are excellent. I love our neighbors and our proximity to family – a.k.a. our social life. So why is it that I am a bit disenchanted with all the charm?

Sure, the fact that they are mowing down all of the original homes in favor of building massive, multi-million dollar monstrosities doesn’t help. Nor do the tourists who crowd the farmers market and go on Segway tours while they mow the rest of us down during summer weekends. And certainly, for this foodie, the lack of decent restaurants isn’t helping (admittedly, this category is slowly improving.).

But, if you don’t mind, lets go back to that moment in the theater: cozy, safe, insulated, pleasant… Walking around a town everyday that is filled with folks who have college educations, good jobs, nice cars, lovely homes, shop at PCC, and are, more or less, racially homogenous – you know, folks who look and act like me – isn’t exactly the most accurate snap-shot of reality. I rarely come face to face with the homeless or see folks who are genuinely barely scraping by. In general, the most diversity I see in town are the yard maintenance crews – primarily of Hispanic origin – that I pass on my morning run. Do I want my kids to grow up in a community where they are that insulated?  I know some people move to our community for exactly that – insulation, safety, charm… They will pay premium housing prices for their kids to grow up here.

Maybe I am difficult, but I’m not sold on the notion. I want my kids to go to school with folks from all different backgrounds, perspectives, and levels of privilege. I want my kids to have daily reminders that not everyone lives in the same manner. Not everyone has milky colored skin, shops at Nordstrom, plays select soccer, and gets handed car keys when they turn 16. I see the sense of entitlement that comes with that level of insulation all around me. I want my kids to have exposure to others who have a different reality so that they learn both to be grateful for what they have and have compassion for those in their own communities. I don’t want them to think that the poor and vulnerable only exist in far away places.

When our church – located in north Seattle – began planting satellite campuses and encouraging the congregation to attend the campus closest to their local community, I bristled. Others around me wholeheartedly embraced this vision.

The church’s effort was two-fold. Its purpose was to encourage a more local sense of fellowship, and to relieve congestion at the flagship location. In general, I think this sounds like a good idea, however for us, one of the many reasons we attend the original campus –even though it is no longer the one located closest to us – is that it offers a lot more diversity and has fantastic local outreach programs. Our location has community dinners for the homeless, a nightly women’s shelter, a food bank, a mobile medical clinic, anti-sex trafficking efforts along Aurora (which is a street notorious for prostitution), groups dedicated to supporting the state foster care system, and various other ministries. It is also the most multi-generational of the campuses. A church community that is truly a community for all is somewhere that I want to raise a family – especially when they won’t get a whole lot of that in our little town (assuming we don’t move before then).

So we defy the wishes and vision of the church as we weekly make our 15-minute trek to the flagship campus. We do this because that vision isn’t our vision. We are intentional about out place of worship and this is where we feel God has placed us. The community we have found there is amazing. The large number of adoptive families has been a huge encouragement. The commitment of the congregation to service in their local community aligns with our values and the values that we want to instill in our children.

So here is where I am stuck, I love the idea of living in close community to those you worship with and serve, but by doing that, we wouldn’t be serving those in most need of service.  So should we continue to live in a community that we can’t seem to justify fully investing our time and energy in?

So lately, Tim and I have been having some tough conversations about where we live. We see plusses and minuses to either decision, but with job changes that no longer make living north of the city convenient, we have been weighing our options. He. loves the safety factor and honestly, I do too, but in the long run, choosing safety and charm isn’t always the right answer.

Has any one else struggled with something similar? How did you make your decision?  Please, help me out!

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