Running through my neighborhood is a study in contrasts. It’s where you’ll find some of the priciest homes in Asheville. Half a mile from my small 2-room apartment is a public housing complex. Across the street from the house I live in – a house that is now 4 small apartments – are two bed and breakfasts, one on each corner. (makes it easy to find my house, direction-wise) One of them has rooms that go for up to $700/night. Not kidding. There are houses beautifully restored and/or renovated to show their former glory. Sagging porches and peeling window frames exist a mere block away from the star of the parade of homes.
“…as you get older, you begin to find things that are worth holding onto, forever. All of sudden you’re playing for keeps, as children say, and it changes the very fabric of you.” (T. French, from The Likeness)
As I navigated brick sidewalks, parents pushing strollers and tackled the hills of the cemetery in the neighborhood yesterday afternoon, I found myself thinking about just what it is that is worth holding onto forever. For this diverse neighborhood I live in. For my tiny life that exists in such a vast universe of beauty and need. There are some obvious things for me, of course. I’ll keep holding onto the firm belief that the gaps that are evident in this wonderful place I get to live can be closed, bit by bit – that it’s possible for our community to take better care of one another. I’ll continue to work toward that reality I know can happen. In some ways, that’s the easy part for me, professionally anyway. I’m lucky enough to get to work toward that through my job everyday.
But as the insanity of the cultural “holiday” season ramps up, and the first world scrambles to buy itself happiness, I realize that we really are playing for keeps on a soul level. For the soul of our communities, our neighborhoods, our families. My daughter has piles and piles and piles of toys. Most of them are what I would term “good” ones – creative, learning-focused, etc. And she doesn’t need 80% of what she has. I have piles and piles of stuff, too. It’s probably not too far off the mark to say that I don’t need 80% of what I have either. Time for me to tread more lightly. To give more, and get less.
For the soul of my community. For the soul of my neighborhood. For my daughter’s soul. For mine. We’re playing for keeps. Nothing we can buy is going to get us there, to that world where bridges are built and crossed, differences honored and celebrated. It’s that world I want for Abigail, it’s that world I want her to help create. No Black Friday deal will make it happen.
But what we share just might.