Where We Live

Although my home will always be wherever my HH lives, I will have an additional home in Charlotte, NC later this spring because of this.  When we moved to Chicagoland in 2011, this is what we looked for in our domicile:

  • Proximity to commuter train station so we could get into the city easily.  (Check.)
  • Walkability to restaurants, library, coffee shop.  (Check)
  • Not too big since we are empty nesters, but big enough so that everybody gets space when the kids visit. (Check)
  • A yard for Scout (who died a few months later) and future dogs (Hello Spense.)

Just like when we moved into our Northern Virginia neighborhood, we were clueless about many real estate things.  It never occured to us that – when we moved into that Virginia neighborhood with an 8 month old – we would live there for 22 years.  We never considered how good or bad the schools were or how important off-street parking would be.  (We were lucky on both counts.) We moved into a house we could afford in a very expensive part of the world.

I told the Nominating Committe in Charlotte that I was interested in two things as I looked for an apartment there:

  • Walkability to restaurants, library, coffee shop.
  • Diversity.  I want a neighborhood that looks like my family and friends.

Where I choose to live will impact the assumptions people make about me.  If I move into a prosperous all-White neighborhood, people will see me one way.  If I move into a downtown enclave of glassy high rise buildings, people will see me another way.  If I move into a “dangerous neighborhood” – you can interpret that anyway you wish – I will be seen in still another way.

Our dwelling places impact our well-being and communicate our priorities.  People make judgments about us based on our zip codes and square footage. 

I choose my Charlotte apartment – literally – after meeting a guy in the lobby who was also moving in whose family was similar to mine.  He showed me photos of his parents in India and his fiancee in New Jersey.  I showed him pictures of FBC’s wedding and our family vacations.  I wanted him to be my neighbor.  And he will be.

I’m at NEXTChurch this week in Baltimore and the keynoter yesterday was David P. Leong who wrote Race & Place: How Urban Geography Shapes the Journey to Reconciliation.  He asked the question:

How have you located your life? Residentially? Socially? Vocationally?

And what does where we live say about who we are or who we hope to be?  I don’t ask this to make a judgment call that people who choose to live among the poor are necessarily holier or people who choose to live in the most expensive neighborhoods are necessarily successful.

The truth is that many people have limited choices in terms of where they can live.  There are still countless neighborhoods that do not welcome people of color.  The poor have almost no choice about where they live.

Assuming that we are People of Faith and that we consider inclusion and community-building to be part of our spiritual practice, what are we doing to serve a world that is longing for authentic relationships? If we hope to remedy community isolation, we must be intentional about including all our neighbors.

But we will be forever segregated – especially racially  – as long as we exclude certain people from our tables, our school systems, our churches.  David Leong put it this way:

(As Christians) We must not only believe that integration is right; but that it’s also good.  It’s one thing to believe in reconciliation but it’s another thing to do it every day.

To paraphrase the message of The Confessing Church in the 1930s: “Not to speak up about integration is to speak.  Not to act against racism is to act.” 

Where we live impacts the way we live.  And it also impacts how serious we are about racial reconciliation.

Dr. David P. Leong‘s book is available here.

One response to “Where We Live

  1. In the UK, clergy housing is generally provided by the church, so we don’t have a choice where we live. My denomination rules that the minister and family’s accommodation should be at least as good as that of the average member of the congregation – which is very nice for us, living in a wealthy area, but I barely realised that there was any diversity to the area until my daughter started school!


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