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3. Relocate

January 21, 2010

If you’re someone who knows me, there’s a good chance you’re aware of my current frustration with the location in which I live—South Charlotte. I get asked quite frequently, “How do you like Charlotte?” to which I have no problem responding, “I really don’t like it at all.” (Admittedly, I can’t help but to associate all of Charlotte with South Charlotte.) Having relocated here from Kannapolis just six months ago, I’ve recently come to a very important conclusion: Isolation from what New Monasticism calls the “abandoned places of empire” is, well, dangerous.

Though I took it for granted at the time, living in Kannapolis exposed me to excluded and marginalized individuals in American society. Many of my neighbors were unemployed. Others were struggling to pay for basic medical procedures. And a considerable number of people on my street couldn’t even afford an automobile, which meant they were totally dependent on public transit to get to and from work, job interviews and even the grocery store.

My point here, of course, is not to glorify poverty or even living in the midst of poverty. Rather, as I write this post from my new apartment in South Charlotte, surrounded by big box stores and multi-million dollar homes, what I really wish to say is that where we choose to live unavoidably shapes us as people in profound ways (not least of which, our moral character). That which we value and place meaning in is inextricably linked to the locations in which we live. Sure, we can quell the effects of materialism and the pursuit of money (both defining characteristics of affluent communities like South Charlotte) by living intentionally and in other ways, but ultimately there’s no substitute for living in the places abandoned by this cruel empire.

The voice of justice is needed in all places and in all times, but it’s most needed in the neighborhoods and communities all around us where injustice takes the dire forms of hunger and homelessness. Counterintuitive though it might sound, a life positioned to address the needs of others is arguably one of the most important considerations for a life of simplicity.

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