Sunday, October 28, 2012


When I think of people living well into their older years, my friend Kathi comes to mind immediately. At a season when most people are clearing out their desks and giving away their teaching supplies, she continues to be a teacher and a student of life. For years, she raised her kids as a single mom and adopted three kids along the way. Today, only her middle-aged Down’s Syndrome son lives with her, and together they’ve made a major life move.
Kathi recently took the courageous step of selling her house in a comfortable Richmond suburb and moving into the inner city onto a street surrounded by abandoned houses in a neighborhood residents would know from newscasts because of its constant crime and violence.

Did I mention alone as a single mom?

In fact, her next door neighbor came over to introduce himself on her move-in day saying, “The drug dealers are on that corner down there, and the prostitutes hang out on the other end. I know them all, so they’ll leave you alone. But listen to me when I tell you that you should NEVER, EVER, EVER open your door at night to anyone. Do you hear me?”

Out of concern, I asked her if she would be safe moving there, she replied, “Well, who’s really safe anywhere?”

 I think her answer meant “no” or “it doesn’t really matter.”

She works with an organization called CHAT (Church Hill Activities and Tutoring) whose staff members also live in the neighborhood. Not only do they live among marginalized people, but they’ve chosen to put their kids in failing public schools to share in that experience with their neighbors.  A scripture on Kathi’s newsletter sent out to family and friends aptly describes their actions:  “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”

I realize her choice is more radical than most of us will make in our lifetime, me included. And I realize some people will feel this post is guilt producing. But the point in sharing Kathi's life is to say that we all have fears to step into and challenges to face in our own lives that may not resemble Kathi’s choice in the least, some on a much smaller scale but important for our sphere of influence.

 Kathi’s choice made me consider what fears keep me from taking risks and following my own calling and passions. Just stepping into those fears can be transformative – for us and for others. The interesting part of fear is how it sort of moves out of our way and evaporates when we push into it.

I salute this woman, this aging lifestyle, this desire to live fully and adventurously – and a little bit dangerously - right to the end. Speaking of the end, the back of Kathi’s house abuts a senior citizen home. She jokingly says she won’t have far to move when she “gets old.”