A lot of us live in our neighborhood because we like the architecture, or the public or private schools, or the diversity of neighbors.

We selected this place because it seemed like the best of all possible alternatives.

Others, however, suffer from a disease that – for lack of a better comparison – I’ll call “Park Cities Envy”. (Of course, there’s a “Richardson” and “Plano” version of this disease, too.)

These people are sort of killing time in our neighborhood until they’ve saved enough money to move somewhere “better” – meaning someplace they think has better schools, better homes, better neighbors.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to live somewhere else. At one time or another, we’ve all felt the urge to move somewhere, sometimes anywhere, other than where we live.

The problem occurs when virtually everyone in a neighborhood is convinced that somewhere – anywhere – else is “better.”

What happens?

Typically, while people are marking time waiting to move “up and out”, they don’t take time to get to know their neighbors. (“Why bother? We won’t be living here long.”)

They don’t make the effort to improve the schools. (“My kid won’t be attending them anyway.”)

And they think the answer to crime is to wish it would go away. (“There won’t be this much crime in my new neighborhood.”)

All of this is a kind of long-winded way to reach my point: Is anywhere really all that much better than here these days?

While listening to National Public Radio recently, I heard a parent in Lakewood, Calif., telling an interviewer: “I’m worried that this community is no longer insulated from big-city problems.”

Apparently, the parent moved his family “up and out” to a perceived suburban utopia so his child wouldn’t have to contend with drugs, crime, peer pressure or racial strife. To this parent, Lakewood, Calif., represented the ultimate “somewhere”, the long-dreamed-of “better” life.

Then, his child became a ringleader of the “Spur Posse”, a group comprised entirely of popular male teenagers and student athletes who kept public score of their sexual conquests.

The point system involved members of the group having sexual relations with multiple female partners and then bragging about it to seemingly anyone who would listen, including parents. Apparently, some of the “scores” exceeded 100, and a whole bunch of kids – male and female, rich and less rich – were involved.

Naturally, quite a few people in the community were shocked that “it could happen here”.

I thought about this in light of what has happened recently in Richardson (a gang shoot-out in a parking lot, one person dead); or in Highland Park (nearly 100 popular high school students, student council leaders and athletes were arrested in Kaufman County during a drinking-party raid).

Similar incidents have happened in Allen, in Carrollton, in virtually every community around here – and throughout the country.

What’s the lesson?

We can’t keep expecting to move “up and out” to escape our problems, particularly the problems of our children. Leaving problems behind doesn’t solve much when the “better” place has the same problems.

So what’s the solution?

Stand and fight – even if you plan only a short stay.

Learn about what’s going on in the neighborhood. (After all, that’s what the Advocate is all about.)

Shop at local businesses. (Every viable neighborhood needs variety to thrive and survive.)

Take ownership of the public schools. (If children need tutors or Boy Scout troop leaders, let’s donate a few hours of our time.)

Fight back against crime. (Think about it: Crime can’t flourish in neighborhoods where people watch out for each other.)

Then, when the time come to move “up and out,” you may think twice. After all, isn’t “better’ what we make it, where we make it?

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