When a place becomes too hard in which to sustain life is it a sin to leave?

I just read the NY Times review of Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden.  It tells the story of two young women (one was grandmother of Wickenden, executive editor of The New Yorker) just graduated from college, who go to a remote area of Colorado to teach children of homesteaders.  It is 1916.  The teachers stay one year.  The homesteading families eventually also leave; today only three year-round residents live in Elkhead.  Six months of snow, remote.  A place too difficult to stay.

There are places like this scattered throughout the rural Midwest.  Barely wisps of what they were.  In some places, ghost towns.

It’s also so in many cities.  Famously, Detroit, among others.  Benton Harbor.  East St Louis.  Gary.

When conditions are such that it’s too difficult to stay, people leave.  Six months of snow.  Street violence.  The town’s only factory closes.  Failed schools.

In the 1980s I visited Ed Marciniak in his office at Loyola.  He had recently written Reclaiming the Inner City.  We talked about Chicago and its low income high rise public housing.  Marciniak’s book described the beginnings of revitalization on the Near North Side and its effect on the CHA Cabrini-Green projects.  One thing I recall is his advice for our work then in Henry Horner Homes.  Create escalators.  Metaphorically speaking.  Help people to leave on the escalator going up.

Should we go to hard places to create communities of life?  Or do we create escalators that can be used, especially by young people, to leave places in which they find it too hard to sustain life, to flourish, to have abundant life?

I suspect the answer is “yes”.

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