I’m a country boy turned small town guy turned suburbanite for the past 28 years, and I’m fortunate enough to get to visit some nice cities on occasion. I live just outside of Raleigh — recently named the best city in the Southeast — and I enjoy spending time downtown. Some other cities are real favorites: Cape Town, Singapore, Prague, Vancouver, San Diego, New York. I always look forward to visiting those.
Seattle is another favorite, and I’m lucky enough to get there every year or two for training sessions with WIRB-Copernicus Group, the nation’s leading Independent Review Board. We provide ethical review for clinical trials, primarily concerned with patient safety. It’s an important service, and it’s been gratifying to serve as a board member for 20 years now. It gives me a chance to scratch an inborn itch for science as well as to learn about new developments in medicine long before they’re approved.
But back to Seattle. What’s not to like about the Public Market at Pike Place, where gorgeous bouquets of fresh cut flowers share space with amazing (if smelly) fish markets and shops featuring products from organic honey to hot peppers to leather work and blown glass? It’s often so crowded that you feel like a movable sardine, but you get to see some really interesting people. Street musicians or performers are common. The original Starbucks is across the street, which is cool, even though I don’t like coffee. A cheesecake shop called “The Confectional” has one of the best names around, and at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese you can watch them, well, make it by hand.
I’m aware that’s mainly the touristy stuff, like the Space Needle, Chihully Garden and Glass, the Seattle Art Museum’s sculpture park, and the bustling waterfront, where the Seattle Aquarium does impressive work, flowers punctuate the the piers, and customers at restaurants like Ivar’s Fish Market compete with seagulls to see who gets to eat the most fries. But it’s that sort of thing that adds a lively and inviting air to the office buildings, hotels, and coffee shops where the work gets done.
I doubt I’ll ever live in a city, but I do enjoy an occasional visit.
It occurs to me that it’s tempting to treat church in the same way, visiting occasionally to enjoy the comfort of the worship and the warmth of the people, but with no real commitment to living out the values that are taught there.
I may never be a committed urbanite: Lord help me remember that the Kingdom calls for full-time citizens.