In 2003 my husband and I decided to move up north with our three-year-old so that Dave could attend seminary. We left our small Americana town committed to a new idea of living in an urban setting. We felt that we would die of boredom if we stayed in Franklin, Tennessee. How could our lives have any eternal significance in a place of such homogeny and affluence? Finally, we were on our way to living The Life we’d always fantasized about. The city, any city that was charmingly distressed, was the only appropriate setting to live a life worthy of Oprah, er, Christ — feeding the homeless, advocating for social justice, living out the Biblical call to love the poor. We had boundless energy, and a life in the city seemed just the place to expend it.
We hammered down our roots through the concrete and tried to make Philadelphia our home. We sold our second car, purchased bicycles, and applied for food stamps. I relished in the multiculturalism and the three thousand or more murals covering the city walls. Themes of courage, personal renaissance, and heritage emanated through the broken walls of this city that would one day be restored.
But daily living in the city was harder than I expected. I was in a foreign culture with no one to translate for me. I eavesdropped on conversations at the park and tried to fit in. Women with names like Maureen and Kathleen stood on the sidelines — their arms crossed — while their daughters took turns batting. Their faces were weathered and their hair limp and I wondered why they hated me. My hellos were viewed with hostile skepticism. I finally learned to keep smiles to myself. After months of assimilation, I ascertained that imposing my cheery greetings on others was culturally inappropriate.
Read the rest of "There and Back Again" at Art House America Blog.