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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sticker Shock: the cross-cultural experience of living in Los Angeles

Living on the "westside" of Los Angeles reminds us how different our community is from the rest of the country: hearing people in the grocery store wish each other "Happy New Year" in October (Rosh Hashanah = Jewish New Year), having friends greet each other (and us) with what I call "the westside baise" (the European kiss on the of the cheek), the dozen or more Spanish-speaking nannies on any given afternoon at the local playground.

Of course we're constantly amazed at what things cost here. And it's not just the cost of housing. Three things come to mind:

1. the local barber shop charges $30 for a regular men's haircut. Needless to say, I get my hair cut at a barber shop a few miles away on the southside of Santa Monica (in an area affectionately known as "Dogtown") for about 10 bucks.

2. I know parking at some office buildings in Los Angeles can get pricey, but I had no idea how much. I had lunch and a meeting in Century City with someone from my church. Fortunately, his office picked up the cost of parking while I was there. Two hours parking was $32. Ironically, the parking cost more than lunch. Welcome to Los Angeles.

3. I took our kids to a carnival a local private school was having. Must have been a fund raiser, because the carnival rides were $5 - each. I quickly realized two kids on a 3 minute Ferris wheel would set me back $10, and that was just one ride.

Then I saw they had "unlimited use" wrist bands. "Great, how much for a wrist band?" $100 - per person. We're not talking "Pirates of the Caribbean" or "Space Mountain" here, just simple carnival rides. I let my kids have $5 or so for some "games of chance" - which, fortunately, even if you lost, you won some kind of prize, sprung for some $2 cotton candy, and went home.

Living and ministering in this city, we're constantly trying to figure out what the Apostle Paul meant in I Cor. 7:29-31 when he wrote: "the time is short. From now on those who buy something [should live] as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of this world, as if not engrossed in them. For the world in its present form is passing away."

It all comes down to an issue of stewardship: how we invest the time, talent, and treasure (finances) the Lord has entrusted us with.

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