by Diane Miller

Most of us in the U.S. have bought into some version of the American dream.

We get an education, a job and then begin buying dream stuff – a widescreen something or other, a car, furniture, and then maybe a condo or house. Along with that, we also seem to choose a destination-based community lifestyle, as we start traveling to our job, school, church, or activities. We head out from our home in the morning and come back after our 9, 12 or 15-hour day of work, school and/or fun stuff. No longer is most of daily American life spent in our home neighborhoods. Our lifestyles are now formed by the pursuit of our American opportunities and we spend more hours “going & doing” each day than we do living in our homes… sleeping doesn’t count!

I bought into this modern day prosperity lifestyle for a few decades; however, I am now done with it! My dream routine left me with no sense of belonging in any one community and the “going & doing” became too downright exhausting!!

Our family has decided to intentionally live differently and to pursue a different dream. We’ve chosen a culturally and socio-economically blended neighborhood to call home and we are determined to base most of our life here. We’re not “going & doing” as much. We own one car and live on one income, which affords me, the mom, time to do all sorts of community activism and volunteer work. Our daughter attends a neighborhood public school, has become fully bilingual and is on track to head to her college choice.

We know that we have had privilege and entitlements being white, growing up in a quickly fading white dominant culture. We are highly educated and have more than our basic needs provided for by my husband’s corporate-type job. We could have chosen a “stacked wealth” area that appears more affluent, beautiful, comfortable and safe. However, we’ve resolved that those qualities no longer fit with our family mission of living with less and loving more. So, we’re living and breathing deep into our chosen beloved ‘hood while building meaningful friendships with our neighbors – as many as possible!

Most days we find peace, freedom and joyful adventure in this life. Our neighborhood mix provides an opportunity to get to know folks who are immigrants from all over the world. The only thing homogeneous in our community is that we are all very different. Is that comfortable? Well, not always. We have tolerated vandalism, tagging, alley arson fires, gang bangers hanging around and an occasional shooting. But, is it a place to see our God’s good, to live an abundant life adventure and stand against the systemic injustices that follow gentrification in our nation’s cities? Yes, pretty much everyday! It is our family model for living and loving well with what we have been given. Besides, how did comfort, dream stuff and constant “going & doing” become more valuable than Christian love and servitude to others not like us in a neighborhood community?

We’ve been on this journey for a while and, being real, we’re still battling our old “dream” tendencies – so, we are human! We also believe that many others are making similar lifestyle choices and hope to connect with you, to share stories, to inspire a different type of urbanization movement. Are you folks out there… what are you doing?

For our dream is… all neighborhoods flourishing with no stacked poverty or stacked wealth… communities where people live, belong and celebrate the good of all the different residents on their blocks. Neighborhoods where children are well known and have a sense of belonging, peace and hope… where everyone has the freedom to sit on their front porch and dream big dreams! We see this neighborhood community as a beautiful witness to our God and all the great diversity of His creation… shalom as our new life-giving American Dream!

“When God called Abraham to bless him, and to bless all the nations through him, he employed the notion of “Shalom”. This Hebrew word, in time, came to mean everything good you would want for yourself and wishing that same quality of life for your neighbors and friends…” (Dr. John Perkins, Beyond Charity)


2 thoughts on “Choosing a Different Dream

  1. My husband and I just read your post. As I read I was picturing in my mind the other 3 families on our street and multiple others who live in our neighborhood that we “live life with”. As well all the kids that hang out on the street playing basketball, walking, celebrating ect. And thinking how awesome it is that we were led here to this place we kind of chose. I should get out more and feel a little convicted for not inviting the neighborhood to our house for the Independence Day celebration we hosted yesterday.
    My husband was reminded of a history lesson from elementary school. A lesson about a wealthy woman with a similar vision…. He’s almost 60, I had never heard of this. If you don’t already know about her I thought this may interest you. 🙂

    1. Hi Karen… Thanks for your comment. Love the word picture you shared of your neighborhood and that you see opportunity to be part of the everyday life with your neighbors. There is always a tension navigating relationships with friends from other communities(i.e.- work,church)and those in your neighborhood. We all only have so much time! Jeff & I will soon share some tools that we have learned to help us make some of those choices easier for us. Though, I am very sure that you will figure out some fun neighborhood interactions or activities, as your heart seems pulled to do so!

      Also, thanks for sharing the link. Chicago’s Hull House was one of the first settlement houses established by 2 women who saw the growing disparity between rich and poor. Models change over time and we are hoping that other folks will share their ideas on this site about living different to model love in our current culture with the same type of disparity that exists today.

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