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City Blessings
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Photo: Hemera
A few years back, my family and I moved from a relatively quiet and stable suburban community outside Philadelphia to Los Angeles. Hollywood, to be specific. In the process of our move we felt like we were going against all the things families with small children are supposed to do. Instead of buying a house in the suburbs we were moving our family of four into a two-bedroom apartment in an enormous city.

But there is so much we already love about living in the city. You might find this surprising, but we have found that one of the greatest blessings about city living is sharing space with neighbors. Don’t get me wrong, we definitely miss our back yard – that amazing space where our kids can roam free and we know they are safe and contained. But does missing something that is convenient mean that thing is necessarily good for me? In the city I don’t have the luxury of private spaces like a back yard, but I am rich in public spaces, which afford me a whole different way of being with people. This takes getting used to but I like the kind of person I’m becoming in this process.

In Each Other's Way

For example, in our first three weeks in Hollywood, we met more neighbors than we met in the suburban community we lived in for the last five years. This isn’t to say that our former neighbors are bad and our new neighbors are good. We were just as much to blame for the inhospitable nature of our former neighborhood. What it does highlight, however, is that living in the city puts people in each other’s way and requires us to live with each other.

When we are moving around in our apartment we have to think about the people who live next to us and above us. We have to cooperate with our neighbor who shares our garage to make sure we both have the access we need. These might seem like inconveniences, or they might be spiritual disciplines that can teach us how to share. I've taught my children a lot about sharing, but up to now my lifestyle was organized around having my own things. Now we are learning together, what it means to enjoy the shared riches of our new life in the city.

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By Ryan Bell. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.


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