that price tag
All the times that I've lived in Chicago and Pietermaritzburg, I've been struggling with this: what is it about poverty that makes me so uncomfortable?
Now that I am here - a place that seems to be the exact opposite of East Garfield Park, I find myself asking the same question but in a new way - what is it about wealth that makes me so uncomfortable?
Growing up in Eureka (a neighboring town), there was definitely the stereotype that people from Morton were "snobby." And like most stereotypes this was based on some truth - there is a lot of wealthy people in Morton. (This, of course, is not true for everyone. After all, I live with my family here who do alright as a youth pastor and a new business owner but are definitely the farthest things from being snobby). When I was growing up, my dad spent his days building beautiful mansions in this very town. No wonder he was antsy to get out of here.
Okay, so sidebar, Morton is a nice little place. (And it is nice to live in a place where I am not going to get cat-called at if I go running, even in the evening).
but maybe that is what I am finding uncomfortable.
When I was first in Chicago for Radical Journey, I thought it was harder to be a Christ follower in the city since you see the realities of poverty and violence every single day. But after living back in rural America, I have found it to be harder to be a follower of Jesus in small towns like this where everything seems fine, where everyone seems like all their needs are met and where we keep our nice little lives all to ourselves. And everyone seems to have more than enough.
I haven't lived in one place for over 10 months since I was a senior in high school. With this constant back and forth, especially in these places of drastic economic demographics, I find myself feeling more and more like an observer. Even though I loved the places I was in and always referred to them as "home," I have never really "fit in." I have somehow managed to be (at different times), too "poor", too "privileged", too "conservative", too "liberal", and too "American", too "un-American." All of these things, have made me think and opened my eyes to a lot of things, so I am glad for the experiences.
I just wish I didn't let it bug me so much.
Like right now, living here, I am very aware of my clothes, most of which I've had forever or are from thrift stores, (which is fine, I really believe in that). My most expensive item of apparel I own is probably my Toms. And I definitely wouldn't have bought them if it hadn't been for the social justice element of them. It's often really hard to stand next to women in really nice clothing clutching coach bags and not do dumb girl stuff like feel inadequate. Not that I ever want to waste my money on something like that (hmm paying off my loans or having a hand bag? Tough right?), but it is there nevertheless. There is this possibility that I might go up with my sister-in-law and her bridal store to a pretty exclusive bridal show in Chicago next month. I am very excited about the possibly of helping out that weekend (and the chance to go back to the city), but lately I've been having a lot of doubts. Vera Wang's people are going to be there and I don't even own any professional dress cloths. or heals. And as someone who is unemployed that is very unlikely to change (unless I suddenly get an interview). I am afraid of going up there and looking really shabby next to everyone.
These are just vain things I think about. I know that when it comes down to it, I really am okay. I am fine with being the type of person who hates the mall and has a very limited wardrobe. And really, I still have more than I need.
I was just made very aware of all of this when I came here.
Oh well. In the meanwhile, I will just crank up some Jessie J, roll down the windows, and forget about the price tag.