Saturday, March 30, 2013

Living Smug in Miami Springs

I am reading Steve Peifer's, A Dream So Big - Our Unlikely Journey to End the Years of Hunger.  I sometimes catch a few pages in the lunch room, but MetroRail is where I can read without interruption.  I have to be careful when reading the book, because Steve has a way of dropping in stories that make the tears well up and run down my cheeks.  So be warned.

I didn't cry about a story on page 142, where I am now, but I did have to stop and post about it, even though I have a crushing amount of work to do:  It's about "a young man named Moses" whom Steve met in Nairobi when waiting for a shipment from the states to be inspected.  Steve writes that Moses "was a newlywed and made a fair living at the freight yard, but lived in one of the worst slums in Kenya."  Steve asked why he lived there. "He explained that because he was the eldest son in his family, it was his duty to help his younger brothers and sisters complete their education.  Because he was currently paying his younger brother's school tuition, he could not afford any housing except the slum."

What first struck me is the very high value I assign to living in a safe, comfortable home in Miami Springs.  I have taken a lot of pride over the years in not living in a much bigger home and in a swankier place than modest Miami Springs.  My strategy has been to live generally at a standard of living below our income, leaving room for important exceptions, such as private higher education for my children, reduction and avoidance of debt, release of Carol's time to parent rather than to "work outside the home."  However, I don't think we could have been more comfortable and happy in a house twice the size of the one we have or in a neighborhood with more expensive houses.  It really wasn't much of a sacrifice at all.  To the contrary.

But live in a slum?  For the sake of a younger brother so he could go to school?  As I think about it, I might do that for my brother or sister or my children or someone in the extended family.

There is a problem with that question, however.  It won't stay put.  It begs, at least for a Jesus follower, other questions:  Who is my brother?  What if his need is not only education but medical attention, food, or shelter?  What then?  Are the answers to those questions different, that is easier, if I am 66 instead of 36 or is there really no difference at all?

Will living smug in Miami Springs continue to do?

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