Last week Kathy Keller, wife of Tim Keller, wrote an article for Christianity Today about raising kids in New York City. As I read I found myself nodding along. Her arguments for moving to the city are persuasive, and I wholeheartedly agree with almost everything she said.
But in two weeks the family and I are moving back the 'burbs. And I couldn't be happier. Not that I think it will be perfect. (Dear Jesus, have I kicked that habit yet?) I anticipate some distinct disadvantages to living in the suburbs.
Cons to Living in the Suburbs:
- The temptation to turn away from human depravity is great. In the 'burbs everyone has their own car, their own yard, their own house. They can go to their private property, shut the door, and pretend nothing bad happens. It's possible to go from air conditioned home to air conditioned car to air conditioned office without once coming face to face with suffering, either your own or someone else's. I do not want my children forever sheltered from the sufferings of their fellow men.
- A city is vibrant, full of the human work of culture-making. Any interest can be fed in a city, from art to music to literature to graphic design to architecture...I could go on. In a suburb it can be harder to find good examples of culture to enjoy as a family.
And, well, that's kind of it. I've thought about these things as we've started saying good bye to the many things we like about our urban home. I'm praying for creative ways to overcome these obstacles. But I can't deny the benefits that make us look forward to a suburb again.
Why I Like the 'Burbs
Why I Like the 'Burbs
- Space. Space. Space. There's just more space out of the city. I don't mean bigger houses, though you can often get more house for your money. I mean open outdoor space. Trees. Green. Undeveloped grazing lands. Memphis is full of trees, of course, but there's a different flavor to the space when it's not interrupted by constant traffic. Which leads me to...
- Quiet. Oh, the soothing sounds of peace as I look out on wide open spaces. It feeds my soul.
- Relative safety. I hesitate to put that here because I try to not make decisions based on personal safety. But, one of the reasons Kathy Keller cited for living in the city is that it forces you to do things with your children rather than sending them into the yard to play. Well, actually, I highly value the ability to send my boys into the yard without me. I'm a homeschooling mom. All I DO is things with my children. And I often worry that, without school, they do not have enough opportunities to do things without me, to build the confidence that comes from self-reliance.
- Potential. The danger of turning a blind eye to human suffering is very, very real, and many residents of suburbs do just that. However, with our time in a urban area, Hubby and I have learned so many things we can never unlearn. We won't soon forget some of the lessons we've learned on poverty and justice. We will never be able to ignore human trafficking again, and as we form relationships in our new home, there is so much untapped potential. We aren't the only ones passionate about justice, but we will be among the few. And new voices talking about their passions? Well, God can do so much with willing hearts.
- Slower pace. This is important to me. Mrs. Keller talks about her sons loving the bustle and noise of the city. Frankly, that very thing oppresses me, and I think it would our oldest son, too. I want the boys to learn to handle silence and stillness before they are thrown into the hustle and bustle of the world at large.
And I think that's really the crux of it, knowing your own family. More Christians should be willing to move into the cities and be lights where there is so little. If given the opportunity to move back to an urban area, we would certainly consider it based on who we are as a family at that time. (I think Hubby will forever be drawn to New York and London.)
However, I wish more of the influencers would acknowledge that city life isn't for everyone. There are plenty of benefits to raising kids outside the city, which is why so many people do. There are unique challenges, of course, but there's also plenty of opportunity for living missionally outside a large urban area.
And there's more space.