Mon 11 Mar 2013
Ronnie moved to a better living situation in Chicago, with a friend he met at our Monday dinners. Jasmine took little Malcolm to the projects on the other side of town. Nick and Coral bought a house in a place where buying a house makes sense for a young couple. The Brooks family’s eviction turned into a state-subsidized apartment and a job for TT, but not near us. Adam and Larita moved away, too; our intentional community and this neighborhood worked great for him, but not for her, hard as we all tried. My kids are gone, too, of course, both of them in Los Angeles chasing down dreams of their own. What can I say? Walnut Hills is a hard place to stay, and an even harder place to come back to.
The four households at the center of our little fellowship are more grounded here, of course, but the older I get the less I trust the constancy of anything but change. All I know for sure is that our being here together for this long has been good for at least some of the people who have come and gone from this neighborhood. And that it’s been good for us, too, on balance.
The other day Mark told me Michael and Judy are taking their three little ones back down South in a few weeks. Given all the drama they’ve brought into Mark and Anne’s lives—addictions, adultery, debt crises, screaming fights, separations, nervous breakdowns, multiple house moves, custody battles with former spouses, and more—I thought Mark might be more relieved by this news, but the fact is that he loves Michael like a younger brother, and counts on him now as a hardworking friend. In a real sense, Mark and Anne have conspired to make Michael and his family eminently missable in a positive way.
Later that day I asked Judy about their moving date, so we could plan a going away party. Here is the text I got back:
We’re shooting for April 1. I’m sad, but this is better for the kids. This city makes you hard and I don’t want them to fall into something Michael and I can’t get them out of. I don’t really want a big fuss about us leaving because I’ve got bad anxiety when I’m the center of attention, but I’ll just have to take a Valium that night because you guys have been good to us and we would not be able to go back home if you had not helped us grow out of our old lives.
If that text doesn’t make you cry, it’s only because you don’t know Michael and Judy, or what they’ve been through, or how much compassion and patience they’ve required of Mark and Anne, or what it means that they’re finally making family decisions based on their kids’ futures instead of their own pasts. Regardless, amidst all the coming and going here in Walnut Hills, I hope it makes you think.
Here’s what I think: Nothing in this world lasts forever, except perhaps for that great chain of love that stretches beyond our individual lives and ties them all together. So then, for however long someone lives in our neighborhood, or we in theirs, it is always worth the trouble to try to wrap both them and ourselves in that chain.
PS Because many of you have asked for an update on my peacemaking work with the Telos Group, I’m sending you another letter about that in a few hours. Think of it as a kind of long, very optional PS. Honestly, the fact that anyone reads these letters at all is both a surprise and an honor for me.
PPS As some of you know, my son Roman is in Hollywood these days, making his way in the entertainment industry. A few weeks ago he booked a speaking part as a wannabe rapper on an episode of TNT’s cop drama, Southland, which airs at 10 pm on April 3rd. If you watch, please help the kid out by giving him a shoutout on Southland’s Facebook page. And remember, he’s acting!