I love the community I live in: raised my family here, pastored a church here for 24 years, continue to live here even with a 41 mile commute one way to Pasadena Monday-Thursday. This is a town I love, where I continue to volunteer my time–at church, as a police chaplain, working with faith communities on homelessness issues, and crime prevention issues. Here is where I am part of a Rotary Club, on the board of the Free Clinic, the Community Foundation. I am committed to this town.
But there is another side to suburban living. Where we live, how a community is fashioned affects the way we think and act. This is the dangerous side of the suburbs. While suburbs are looking more and more like urban settings, there is still something insidious about the suburbs.
The suburbs are a place of escape–away from more urban settings with crime, and noise, and traffic, and messiness. So when the messiness appears in the suburbs, we do all we can to ignore it hoping it will just go away. We get uncomfortable with lawns and people who do not conform, who are outside the norm. We wish the untidyness would disappear. It doesn’t
I get saddened when we who live in the suburbs, including me, turn a blind eye to the messiness. We don’t like hearing or knowing about homeless people, kids sleeping on the street, kids going to school without a shower, clean clothes or a meal. So we ignore.
When we hear that good middle class kids can’t find the money for musical instruments, or police officers need more canines to fight crime, or the arts need a boost—we do fundraisers, and money flows. We like to give to good middle class, increase our standard of living causes.
But when we hear about kids not being able to get proper dental care, or the underemployed not being able to get adequate medical treatment, or the working homeless not being able to find affordable housing, we turn away. That just isn’t an exciting way to spend money: we don’t want to have those sort of issues in the suburbs.
This is the danger of living in the suburbs. We forget about the marginalized, the “least of these.” Yet this is our task, as human beings–to reach out to others, even the messy. And for the church, this is our obligation–to do the messy work, the hard work and extend ourselves to others in the name of Jesus. We are to be about doing good—even when it is hard. Maybe this is more difficult in the suburbs. The church can lead the way.