When Nora and I first married, we lived in a condo in mid-town Baltimore. When Pippa came along, we decided to buy a rowhome with a yard, so that she would have a little room to romp. We settled in North Baltimore.
Baltimore ranks high on top-10 lists. These aren’t the rankings that city boosters tout. Top 10 residents living in poverty. Top 10 drug addicts. Top 10 violent crime. These are all per capita lists – as a medium-size city of 650,000, we have trouble matching the raw numbers of big cities like New York and Chicago, but we seriously overachieve on a per capita basis.
Don’t get me wrong, Baltimore has a lot to offer and I love living here, but it’s folly to ignore the pitfalls of urban living.
When we moved to a house, we became keenly aware of these issues. One day, when Pippa raced out the door, then down the street, then around the block – Nora mock chasing all the way – Nora was horrified to discover that someone had stormed the house and raided her jewelry box while she was away. She hadn’t meant to be away for so long, but who would imagine you’d need to lock your house in such a situation?
We soon discovered we weren’t alone. The neighborhood message board was peppered with the regular postings of copper gutter filching, home burglaries, and the occasional street mugging.
Some of it was serious and some absurd. Someone tried to grab a vacuum cleaner out of the back of my pickup truck (while I was pumping gas!) but my timely turning around dissuaded him. I’ve been asked to buy a spanking new chainsaw on a city street and a huge boa constrictor at a gas station (Note to self: research purchasing an all-electric vehicle). And, my favorite, our good neighbor friends had their hosta plants dug up and carried away in the middle of the night.
I know what you’re thinking: Why would anyone live in Baltimore? Crime, failing public schools, the 2015 riots.
It’s simple: God has given us a heart for this city and its people. We send Pippa and Grey to school in Baltimore. We worship in Baltimore. Until recently, we both worked in Baltimore (now just Nora). While many Christians have fled the city and its ills, we feel called to it.
God has a heart for cities. Why? That’s where people live. Jesus loved the city of Jerusalem and wept over it, and he made it a priority to visit the major population centers of his day.
And God has used our time in Baltimore to teach us to not be so in love with material things. I love to cycle and I love my bike, but honestly, my attachment to it is tenuous – chances are, if we live here long enough, it will get stolen. That’s just the way life is here, and God has taught me that that’s good for me, in a way.