Wednesday, March 3, 2010

American Dream?

So I had the opportunity yesterday to head down to our neighborhood and check it out a little more with just Grace and me. I figured we'd grab a sandwich at Subway and hang out for a while, trying to meet someone(s) and get a better feel for the neighborhood. Well, we drove around for about 45 min. and the bad news is, there is no Subway. The good news is, I discovered all kinds of things.

I discovered an Ethiopian restaurant and a bar/night club as well as other ethnic restaurants. I discovered there are all kinds of churches on the perimeter of the neighborhood. I discovered grocery stores, starbucks, target, fast food chains galore, a few restaurants and a few stores, including something that could be a brothel and a good old fashioned mom&pop hardware store (yes, in the same strip mall). After all this driving around and discovering I stopped at Chick-fil-A and thought about some things.

First I thought about how there are specific ethnic restaurants and realized I know nothing about those cultures. I can't even tell you what type of food could be found in an Ethiopian restaurant! I realized that I must spend more time discovering the area and learning about these ethnic cultures. I'm not that adventurous with food, but I will try almost anything once. I think I'll need some brave souls (or hopefully friendly neighbors) to introduce me to these new things. It'll be a fun learning experience I believe but I won't lie, I'm nervous that I either will be totally disgusted by the food, or not be able to enjoy the cultures and be the light of Christ to my new friends.

Second, I thought about all those big churches sitting on the busy corners of the perimeter of the neighborhood, being driven by every single day, at least twice for most. I kind of got the feeling that The Church was maybe a little scared to actually penetrate the boarders. Granted, it was Tuesday around lunch time, so it's possible that the lack of activity or number of vehicles in the parking lot was slim due to empty stomachs but somehow I don't think that's the case. Now I'll admit I haven't done ANY research on these churches to find out their ministries within the community, this was just the vibe I got based on location alone. I know that prime real estate is busy intersections for churches, because the more people that drive by, the more likely people will come in. I'm just curious, is that true?? Does it work? Is the Kingdom growing with churches parked on the corners??

Do any of you ever wonder what it was like a century ago, when your church was your neighborhood? I do. I wonder what it was like for the women to gather and work together for the community. Some women sewing blankets and clothes for lots of families, some women baking bread, others still gathering all the children and teaching them. Sharing meals on a daily basis together, no walls/baggage or technology or sense of individualism to prevent the growth of relationships. Wow, what that must've been like, to not get the looks I do for making my children and husband a priority (notice I left out friends, sorry about that, really. Ya'll are a priority, I just run out of time and energy sometimes). And maybe I'm totally wrong about what it was like a century ago, I'm not big on history, but I know life was like this at some point in time, right?

The Third thing I thought about as I sipped my lemonade was how this neighborhood isn't much different than the neighborhood I currently live in. I saw the same fast food chains, the same grocery stores, the same restaurants and mostly the same stores. There was road construction just the same, updating of parks and fresh looking schools. The differences I did notice were quite minor.

There was a rent to own store and a few check cashing stores plus lots of nail shops. I'm not sure why the nail shops are always in the more poor parts of town but they are, and that's where all the rich people drive to get their nails done too (because it's usually the best nail job you can find). The houses are a bit smaller, the lawns were unkempt and some of the neighbors didn't mind having junk sitting around their yards or the old junkie car that barely runs parked in front of the house. Surprisingly enough, I found comfort in these differences. It could be because this is more the type of neighborhood I grew up in. Or it could be that it feels people are more real about who they are, where they came from and how they got there. Where we live today, we pay several hundred dollars a year to make sure all of our neighbors mow their grass, trim their hedges, drive only nice looking cars and never have any junk sitting anywhere outside their house (there are also lots of other mildly annoying rules that comes with this service). But it just creates an environment that puts a sign in our yard and, it says, "Hi, Don't talk to me, I don't have any sh*t and I don't want to know about or deal with your sh*t."

So this all leads me to wonder what is the American Dream? What is it that people are striving for? Are they really sacrificing their children, spouse, friends and morals to move into this neighborhood, driving the black SUV or blue van, to pretend they love their life?? Gaining more debt then they will ever be able to repay, either hoping their children don't make life choices that will ruin them forever or relying on the church or others to teach them 'right'. What dream is that fulfilling?

Now please don't get me wrong. I have a big house and would love to drive a van (not blue!) and lounge around all day eating bonbons, trust me I've spent plenty of time chasing this dream, but isn't there more purpose to life? Haven't we been created to create, love, do, be and live in Christ, with Christ, for Christ to Christ? And if we have then what are we doing?! Why, even as I write this post, do I have a desire to click over and do some shopping on Amazon for this and that? (Well, that might actually be because I've given up screens for lent and have a limited amount of time for work/ministry stuff, but you get my point right?). Why is it NEVER enough?

To me it seems the American Dream we've been after our whole lives is Gluttony. And we are succeeding! At the cost of our children, our marriages, our friends, our enemies, our health, our sanity and most importantly, our identity in Christ. But then again, maybe it's just me...