Andy Whitman, one of my favorite writers, published a lovely piece on Friday about his experience as an idealistic twentysomething, banding together with other young Christians to try to live out his faith in the way he best knew—and what that means to them now, thirty years later, as happy suburbanites.
We cleaned the place up, if not morally, then at least physically, and when we left the neighborhood was less unsightly than when we arrived. But in the end the ghetto won. The hippies grew up, got married, and started families and careers. And suddenly it wasn’t that appealing to envision little Sarah or Joshua meeting the crack dealer on the corner. We all left, for the simple reason that we could. We had the emotional and intellectual and cultural capital to make a break for it, and we did.
Every year, on December 28th, the increasingly thin-haired, thick-waisted remnants of that failed experiment meet to catch up on life and to remember our shared time together. We reconvened just a few weeks ago. More than thirty years later, it’s evident that we got a lot wrong. And more than thirty years later, given the sizable turnout that shows up for these yearly reunions, and given the fact that many of these people travel great distances to be there, it’s evident that we got a lot right.
I’ve found myself daydreaming about living in community lately. Not that I don’t. We fill our apartment with our home group every week, and each month we invite everyone we know for a home-cooked brunch. (Thankfully they don’t all show up, because our entire apartment is roughly the size of your dining room, and our bed is quite literally next to the desk, which is next to the television, which is across from the couch—but we do get about twenty people.)
But that does mean I get to clean up before people come over and bake some nice cookies, which is altogether different from having people stop by and know how you really live. To know people for their day-to-day faces, not their scrubbed Sunday duds.
Of course I know it’s idealistic, and I’m not making plans to move anywhere more ghetto than where I already live (which is considered nice, but is only a few blocks away from a big housing project). But sometimes I think it’s good for us, when we’re young, to be able to break out of our daily gym-office-TV-bed routines and live “together.”
It just makes me think.