This one honestly serves as a rehashed idea that was meant to be a blog entry months ago. However, I buried it after realizing that I became a victim of my own story. I broke down and did what “they” do, even though I secretly hoped that my worldy alter ego would fail miserably. Yet he won. Or perhaps he didn’t. Who knows…..
In the end, my conscience regarding what I originally intended for the blog post got the best of me. If my blog is supposed to be about my pursuit of Christ in humility, then why would I should I attempt to hide what I perceive to be some of my own shortcomings? People who now me well, are fully aware of them anyway. LOL
The story goes something like this…… The local school system has gone through some recent changes in terms of zoning and busing. To make a long story short the county school system in which I live (Wake County) decided to overhaul their previous busing policy in favor of a “neighborhood schools” system. Which just translates to mean that people in wealthy areas did not want poor kids getting bused to their schools and wanted the convenience and right to choose schools that were closer to their home. Put simply, they didn’t want kids from “economically challenged” neighborhoods coming to the schools in nicer areas of town, and they also didn’t want their kids bused to areas where poor kids live. At best, it meant if given the choice (store that word “choice” in the back of your mind for a minute), they would choose convenience, and comfort over diversity. Of course, if I ever explained this so simply and succinctly in a public forum, let’s say a town hall meeting, I would be booed and jeered at for stuffing the truth into an uncomfortable nutshell. But I digress……
As you may already be able to tell, I was not in favor of changing the previous diversity based (economic, in this case) busing policy for reasons that will become more clear below. I voted, like everyone else in the county, but wasn’t really all that optimistic that it would reverse the tide. It didn’t. In the end, the neighborhood schools people won the battle. So, here’s where the story gets interesting……….
It just so happened that the part of town that I live in (with intention) was unique even within the previous busing system. To cut to the chase, the extended area near our side of town contains a good mix of upper middle-class, middle-class, and lower middle-class people. I cringe at even saying it like that because I hate the labels, but for simplicity sake it gets the job done. The more diverse mix is part of the reason that we chose to live there. Knowing that, I was fully aware of the fact that the diversity that could be found in our neighborhood schools was subject to crumble at the hands of the new neighborhood schools policy. The new policy would allow people the “choice” (remember that word?), to pick where they wanted their children to attend school for the following year. Now, given a “choice”, I knew that most parents would by default choose the best possible school that they were given to pick from. Who wouldn’t, Right?! Well, me. I thought?
See, the school my son used to attend, is about as diverse as you can find in our city. No, I’m not just talking about the default black and white type of diversity. I’m talking many different ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, economic backgrounds etc. The works. I was actually very proud to be a part of a school like that. One event that we attended was filled with people of all types – I saw people of African descent, Middle Eastern, Indian, Asian, some handicapped, some who appeared to be grandmothers – who I would guess were caretakers of their grandchildren, single mom’s, blue collar people still in their work clothes, and white collar people still in their business casual clothes. I can’t exactly recall what the event was, but I was blessed to see so many different people who were obviously okay (at worst) with the rare idea of mixing and mingling with other people who were not like them. As I left the school campus that night, I recall thinking to myself how much hope I have in people. There’s no need to deliver a lecture on the history of American classism and cukture, but it’s been a rocky road to what’s now dubbed by popular culture as ethnic diversity and cultural sensitivity.
So, here I was at a school that had achieved the somewhat impossible. But I was faced with a choice of my own. The choice was to keep my son at as school that didn’t have all the resources of the ritzy schools or take advantage of this new “choice” to upgrade to a school that wasn’t necessarily closer, but was “better”. Let me paint a picture of what I specifically mean by better.
My sons current school was a nice school. However, it was older, the equipment, the library, the computers are a little outdated. Just as an example, when I went their for their fundraising fair day, I noticed as my son played on the playground with one of his buddies that the padding below the monkeybars and swing sets were worn out. Worn out to the point where not only were there areas where the padding was soft, but some areas actually had gaping holes and indentations. That day I noticed that the grass looked like it hadn’t been cut on their playground area in over a week. Weeds coming in all over, very few areas were paved, and where they were there were a good amount of cracks in the pavement. Perhaps, this is what many public schools look like these days, with an ailing economy, budget cutbacks from the state level, and teachers being put on furlow. During the fair, a live DJ played some music in a small shelter area, where the kids were able to sing karaoke to some of the more popular, but clean pop songs. Not something you would find at schools located in high income areas. They don’t entertain the culture of common folk like that 😉 I’m just trying to paint a picture here of atmosphere and how it differs fro the other schools that we were given a “choice” to apply for that were “better”.
They’re “better”, because they often have newer computers, nicer playgrounds, the kids are often from two parent homes, higher average test scores, the average income surrounding the schools is higher, and the facilities/classes they offer, and so on, are just “better” – from a worldly standard. Most of those unique offerings, like digital chalkboards, and brand new projectors, iPads, often come from the gobs of money that get raised through PTA’s in higher income areas. It’s the little back-door way of cheating the system in some respects. It’s fair game, but instead of relying solely on the money that gets funneled through your local property tax system, you raise money right there at home.
So, we were obviously faced with a choice, stay where we were and accept the negatives that come with being in an economically diverse school or jump ship like people in the world often do, cut ties, wave good-bye, and search out greener pastures. We applied for those greener pastures, even though deep down I hoped that my biblical alter ego would win out. He lost, and behold, now we reside in greener pastures. Perhaps it was God’s plan?
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” – Romans 12:15-18
There’s often a tendency in American Christianity to overlook these kind of verses all together or to metaphorically dismiss the word lowly, for instance, to mean spiritually lowly. It’s common, for example, that people often do that with scriptures like Luke 5, “Where Jesus opens the scroll of Isaiah and says that he came to bring good news to the poor. Tim Keller, is one of a handful that is brave enough to tackle this often intentional/convenient oversight. As he says, not all of these uncomfortable scriptures can be passed of as allegories. In a scriptural sense it’s intellectually dishonest to do that in light of books like James, Deuteronomy, for instance. I feel sometimes as Christians, especially being middle-class and in America we tend to duck from these types of scriptures that can be pretty challenging when you consider the implications of what that might look like if we actually tried to live it out in a very practical way.
So my challenge to myself and anyone else reading this is how do we deal with the implications of the decisions that we often make to flee from the lowly, like the world tends to do? As Christians, shouldn’t we be doing the opposite? I’m not trying to make any of us feel bad for trying to get the best possible education for our children, but how do we wrestle with these types of issues in light of our Christian calling? Where the bible calls for us to be Holy (literally meaning set apart) how do we grapple with the full implications and discomfort that come with a lifestyle that mirrors that?
How do we live in the world, but not be of it? How do we mold that into a reality where we don’t look like and make decisions that look just like the world?