Washington has changed so quickly. Even in the short [sixteen] years that I’ve called it home whole new neighborhoods have been redeveloped, become safer, revitalized. There’s lots of verbs to be used… one particularly vexing one is, “re-gentrification,” as if somehow gentle people don’t live in economically depressed areas.
For most of DC’s new residents, it’s all been very positive… summed up perhaps by the phrase, “Isn’t this a great place to live!” and from my own point of view I’d agree. But there are other ways to think of this. Last week, Perry Stein examined once such case in the Post, “A D.C. resident hopes these yard signs can save his neighborhood from gentrifiers” I was immediately interested because the article concerns Brightwood, a neighborhood where a friend of mine serves as a priest. My initial reaction was based solely on my own experience, “Who would oppose improvements in a neighborhood.” Likewise at dinner recently, friends and I discussed market forces and what a great deal longtime residents are getting as they sell homes to new arrivals in DC. Then I read the Book of Kings in today’s Office of Readings…
“Naboth… had a vineyard in Jezreel next to the palace of Ahab, king of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, ‘Give me your vineyard to be my garden… I will give you a better vineyard in exchange, or, if you prefer, I will give you its value in money.’ ‘The Lord forbid,’ Naboth answered him, ‘ that I should give you my ancestral heritage.’ ” (cf. I Kings 21)
There are other priorities in people’s lives besides the force of the market, the value of money and the easy availability of yoga studios and organic markets. As Naboth references, things like family legacy, personal memories, history… who’s to say that all these things aren’t just as important as what new arrivals in DC value? To be clear, I’m not judging the values on either side… but reading this passage, as well as some of Pope Francis’ recent comments in S. America compels me to at least consider sets of legitimately human values other than my own as I, along with my fellow Washingtonians, think about how our city sees itself and changes over time.
Just something to think about through eyes of faith.