Monday, April 21, 2008

Juxta Posed

My husband is constantly at odds with the fact that he and I were both raised in "suburban" neighborhoods with little exposure to urban life. At the same time, his was definitely more urban in that his parents live close to public transportation, are now surrounded by an extremely diverse group of citizens who have access to large subcultures, in which communities can immerse themselves with few reminders that they are in the USA!

I, however, grew up in a much more juxta posed area. On the fringe of one of the wealthiest counties in the country, I saw little diversity yet lived within miles of it, knew little of poverty although was told we were "poor" and lived in nice houses just minutes from some of Bridgeport's poorest slums. I look back now on how appalled I was visiting Acapulco, Mexico, where the rich and poor lived side by side and never intermingled. I now see that I grew up in much the same type of area.

Today, before I left for the grocery store, I read an article in the Washington Post about a community in Virginia that has essentially eradicated the "problem" of illegal immigrants. Do I think it's really a problem? Sure I do.... Do I know how to fix all the issues involved in that without looking like a non-cultured, suburban housewife who is uncomfortable with all that comes with being illegal?? I don't! I see both sides and wonder, if given the chance to become legal citizens would their behavior be any different?? Would they be able to secure better paying jobs, purchase their own houses and not have to live communally under one roof, would they be more invested in making their neighborhoods safe for their families instead of not really caring about neighbors who don't really care for them?? I just wonder...

Off I went to the grocery store I only go on my own to. It's an older, cheaper store and I'm addicted to low cost groceries! There is a security guard at the door, which for me means I don't take my children there, not because I think they should be sheltered from all unpredictable things in this world, but because I feel like a more responsible parent if I can keep them from harm. Today, the security guard called in sick and apparently the news spread fast!!

I first noticed something was off when a seemingly cognitively impaired man rushed by me up an aisle with basket in hand, trailed slyly by a store manager. I completed my shopping and noticed by the checkout a group of men who worked in the store were gathering and talking about a man in a hat, blue T-shirt... the women up front where pointing to a couple cars in the parking lot loaded with people waiting for this man. I have no idea what he did - grabbed a purse, stole food, had an altercation - but they finally found him and I did witness him physically push down and run away from the manager. A couple minutes later the fire alarm went off and they were yelling the police were on the way and he had fled out the back. The occupants of the waiting cards began (oddly) heading towards the store and little old me was thinking I was so happy my kids weren't with me! As I made my way out to the parking lot, wondering if I was risking my life by leaving, I heard a man say either, "He's my son" or "He's got a gun" - big difference, but I wasted no time getting out of there as fast as possible, feeling only slightly better that two police officers had arrived.

This store is literally 5-10 minutes from my house, and once again I find myself on the fringe, living in a crazily wealthy county only a hop, skip and jump from some very impoverished and desperate people. Impoverished comingling with overpoverished. And I keep going back to this store not because I'm so cheap I can't spend another $30/week to feel safer, or because I like putting my life in danger but because I don't want to forget that there are many people in my midst who are needy in more ways than one, or two, or three. Someday, I'll expose my children to more of what the real world is like, but for now I just continue to remind them that we are fortunate, and we need to be grateful for all that we have. And we're called to love our neighbors - tangibly.

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