Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Trash Cans and the American Dream

Ok, I'm going to rant for just a moment or two.

Background: about a month ago, my roommates and I moved into a rental house. We love this place. It is spacious and in a safe neighborhood, right on a golf course. There's plenty of room for people to come hang out and allow this to be a community house. For two of us, this is our first time renting a house. For the other two, they rented a house in Blacksburg, but only a townhouse here. Also, growing up I lived in a really relaxed neighborhood outside the city limits where the regulations were basically "don't burn down your neighbor's house."

So now to the story: we have been working on getting one of the youth group kids at church to come mow our lawn to raise money so he could go to camp. Well, because of some phone tag and the lack of a mower, it's been about 2 weeks so admittedly, the grass is pretty long. Well Sunday we got a knock at the door. "Hi, you must be the new tennants. We have a really active homeowners' association here and I just wanted to warn you that you need to cut your grass or people may call the city."

"Oh," says I, "I'm sorry, I know it's much too long, I'll do it tomorrow."
Now, the man was very cordial - but definitely direct.

Then Monday (the next day) at work I got a phone call from our property manager who said that we got a CITY CITATION for our grass being too long and our TRASH CANS BEING VISIBLE FROM THE STREET. Not at the street. They were up next to the house, minding their own business, no trash sticking out - just visible from driving by.

Really? Is THIS the American dream? At first I felt bad. Then I got angry at whichever neighbor decided to tattle to the city about our misplaced trash cans. Then I just felt sad.

We (being upper-middle class America) live inside our comfortable bubbles where the most important thing we have to worry about in the day is the length of our neighbor's grass and the placement of their trash cans. We as a society (and me personally) don't even love our neighbors enough to know their names. More than a month and I haven't said more than hello to most of my neighbors.

The American Dream: a perfect house filled with 2 kids, a dog, a cat, and 3 fish with 2 nice cars in the driveway and a pool out back. Is that all there is? In the relentless pursuit of this dream have we missed something? When the fulfillment of our lives is based on the positioning of our neighbor's trash cans, we have missed something!!

I don't want this. I mean, I love this house, and I genuinely have a desire to be a good steward of this house. But I never want to live with such a near-sighted view of the world. Behind those houses with misplaced trash cans (and perfectly placed ones), there are people. People whom God is seeking.

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