It's crazy to think it's almost been 2 years ago when we started entertaining if we could buy a home again. I say again, because we were the "1 in 5 million" that lost their homes during the mortgage crisis, but I'll have to share more on that later.
Just to give some context, if you don't know, the Chicagoland area is very segregated either by race or class, which when you think about it really goes hand in hand. Someone can tell you what neighborhood they live in, and you can have an idea if that neighborhood is, "good or bad" "affluent or low income." I know...crazy right?!? There's so much Chicago history on how it became so divided, and it continues to remain one of the most segregated cities in the US. Feel free to Google it, if you are intrigued and want to learn more.
Our home buying experience was interesting because the more we shared we were looking to buy, the more we got unwarranted advice, suggestions and questions. For example, I had a friend ask me where we were looking. Now mind you, my husband is the only salaried person in our home. With the home buying process, using the salaried income is the best way to go. Also, we were very determined to find a space that fit our needs, but didn't want to go beyond what we were currently paying for our apartment....which was no easy task. So to answer her question, I hesitantly mentioned some nearby suburbs (just out of the city), and she quickly responded that I should add in a very commonly known affluent community. It left me in an awkward situation of what to say, because I knew this quaint community existed, it just wasn't within our budget. So, I nodded my head, and changed the conversation. These comments came constantly. After searching for months, we found the perfect home for us in a community called Maywood, which is just outside of Chicago.
Now after we bought our home, more comments came. If you don't know anything about Maywood, it has a reputation of being considered a "bad area" or "up and coming," in which, I'm not a fan of these words. Maywood was a thriving community until the mid 1970's when a major factory closed down causing a huge loss of jobs. The community never really recovered after that. Today, it has a 97% minority population, it's a food desert, there's lots of abandoned homes, and more. The assumptions about Maywood bother me, because the reality is they are mircoagressions towards a certain people group, whether we want to admit it or not, and lets not forget, I am one of "those" people.
So friends, I want to share 4 things not to say to someone who is looking or just bought a home in what would be considered a "not so great" area.
1. SO....HOW'S MAYWOOD (OR INSERT SAID NEIGHBORHOOD?!?)
You wouldn't believe how many times I've gotten this question. Sometimes I don't really know how to respond. But I say, "Oh we love it!" You guys....we can't always believe what blogs, articles and non-residents have to say about "these" areas. Unless you've lived in that neighborhood, please don't share what might be inaccurate opinions. I have experienced community more here, than anywhere else we've lived. Our neighbors look out for us, helped us when we got stuck in the snow, closed our garage door when we forgot to close it on several occasions and so much more! Our neighbors are genuinely amazing!
Maybe instead ask "How are you enjoying homeownership?"
2. OH....SO, HOW'S THE SCHOOLS?
This usually is the followup question after the first one. One time, I did have someone just go straight to this question. And my response was...."Ummm, I don't know. We homeschool." We’ve been a homeschooling family for 4 years because we quickly learned our daughter thrives better one on one. However, with a basic internet search I could gather an idea that the schools are considered "underperforming," but I don’t believe we should formulate an opinion without actually walking into each of the schools, meet with the principal, and allowing ourselves to draw our conclusions. Let's not let the internet and hearsay be what determines if a school is good or not.
Maybe instead ask "How are you enjoying your child's school?"
3. SO HAS ANYTHING BAD HAPPENED TO YOU WHILE LIVING THERE.
I couldn't believe I was actually asked this but I was. I could tell this friend was trying not to dig herself deeper in a hole. I responded quickly with a no, and shared more of my positive experiences with my neighbors, but at this point the subject got so awkward that the subject was changed.
Maybe instead ask "How are you enjoying new your neighborhood?" or "Tell me what you are loving most about your new neighborhood?" See a pattern here?!?
4. YOU SHOULD JUST MOVE TO THE SUBURBS WHERE THERE'S A WHITE PICKET FENCE AND THE SCHOOLS ARE REALLY GOOD, YOU'LL PAY HIGH TAXES BUT IT'S WORTH IT.
Yup! I've gotten this one too. Now as awesome as that sounds, the reality for us is that our budget couldn't go that high. I had another friend, say, "Well you could live "here" if you just allocated your budget appropriately." I wasn't sure if I wanted to laugh or cry.
You guys, we have to remember that just because one might be able to purchase a $500k+ home doesn't mean everyone can. Heck not everyone can qualify for a $200K+ home. We have to remember that we all live on different levels of income, and if we are truly submerging ourselves around those who don't all look and live like us, we have to be aware of how our livelihoods may not be like be our friends. Also, we have to be aware of the words we say, and how they may come from a place of privilege, may be making an assumption about a certain people group, or sharing insight on hearsay that is founded in stereotypes and prejudice. Now let me clarify, there's no shame in your game if you can purchase a $500k+ home, just don't forget that isn't the story for everyone. We have to be willing to ask ourselves, "Is my circle of friends living a similar lifestyle as me? Does everyone I hang out with look like me?" If they are, then we have to ask ourselves, "Am I truly diversifying myself in a way where I'm doing life with those who don't look and live I do?? Are my actions aligning with my words, and what I say I'm for?"
Instead say: "I love that you are looking to buy a home, what is your dream home?!?" or "I heard you bought a home, how did you know that was your 'Home'? Did you get that tingling feeling inside?"
All in all, Jeremy and I are challenged to live our lives in a way that honors Jesus, which to us means not living above our means. Remember how I mentioned earlier that we were the "1 in 5 million" that lost our home during the mortgage crisis?!? Well, we did everything we thought we were supposed to then, to achieve the American Dream. We believed that buying a home beyond what our income could handle and filling it up with lots of brand new beautiful furniture somehow meant that we "arrived." Before we knew it, we lost everything, and in losing it all, it taught us to let go of the American Dream, and begin to go after the God Dream. For us the God dream is living out each of our purposes in whatever way that looks. Now that may mean we won't be super wealthy, but we are okay with that. As long as we can eat, support our kids, and pay our bills, while going after our God dreams, we are more than happy! Now let’s say our income increased significantly…..we still have a huge conviction to stay simple, live on less so we can give more, and help support other’s big God dreams. So to us, where we live doesn't matter. It's about making our home a home filled with love, safety, and togetherness, while our door is open to being a light to those around us.
So....who wants to be our neighbor?!?