The zip code 64130 has more residents on death row, convicted for murder, than anywhere else in the state of Missouri. In 2009, the Kansas City Star did a series on this neighborhood. The series brought attention and prayers and resources, but the problems remain.
Last Sunday, the Star covered a topic that was a little more heartwarming than death row inmates. This article looked at the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s zip code analysis of charitable giving across the country.
64130 was the most generous zip code, as a percentage of earnings, than any other zip code in the Kansas City Area. They gave an average of 12.5% of their discretionary income. Although the wealthy areas of KC gave more total dollars, they gave at the lowest percentages- around 4.2%.
These findings were not unique to the KC area- across the country, the study found that those in poor areas gave a greater percentage of their income than those in rich areas. This was fascinating to me.
I live in a suburb. It’s not a particularly rich suburb, but it has good schools and low violence. I don’t see homeless people or beggars. I can’t tell you where people are shot or where drugs are sold. It would be very easy for me to live my life in my little suburban bubble, pretending that these things don’t exist just a few miles down the road.
But that would be a lie.
I don’t want to put the problems of this world, of my city, out of sight and out of mind. I don’t want to hold on to my dollars or spend them frivolously when there are neighbors that need them to eat. I don’t want to look at every person in need as a nameless victim.
And now that I have a child- and hopefully many more children to come- I don’t want my children to think that way either. As a mother, I believe it is part of my job to protect my child’s innocence and preserve it for as long as I reasonably can. But I also believe part of my job is to teach my child empathy. To help him realize that not everyone has a warm bed to sleep in and enough food to fill their bellies. To teach him that because he has been given much, he will have much to give. To give him a passion for serving others that goes far beyond monthly shifts at the food kitchen. To introduce him to people that have been given little and need much, and to regard these people not as victims or less-thans or poor and helpless, but as friends and neighbors and fellow children of God.
Living in the ‘burbs has many perks that I am thankful for and enjoy. But I do not want my zip code to determine what I know about the city’s needs. I do not want to hide behind the safe schools and clean neighborhood curtains of my zip code. I do not want my zip code to define how my children view the world. And I do not want my zip code to dictate what I give.
How can I help my children feel secure and safe while teaching them that not everyone in the world is?
I haven’t figured that out yet; I only have one child and he’s not even five months old yet. However, that is the question I’ll be intentional about answering over the next several years of my life.