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I choose to live in Jackson, despite what others say. Here's why.

I live in the 12th worst city in America. Wow.

24/7 Wall St. dove into data of over 500 U.S. cities with populations of 65,000 or more and found the crummiest places in all the country to plant your family. They looked at things like quality of schools, strength of economy, safety, culture, and climate.

I could have told them what they needed to know on the basics, as could you. Schools? Bad, hence, we homeschooled. Economy? Never something to brag about in the poorest state in the nation. Safety? We ain’t a gun culture here for nothing. Culture? Actually, this is kind of a bright spot here given Mississippi’s literary heritage, the blues, art, ballet, and good food. But then, climate. Ouch. As my brother says, “There is only so much fun you can have with humidity.”

That doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about my place, Jackson, MS, but it gives you an idea about why we never perform well in these kind of analyses.

In other words, we don’t live in Shangri-La. But, on the other hand, I don’t want to.

Years ago a friend of mine reached the position of Provost at a school where, by all appearances, I should want to teach. I visited him one day just to renew our acquaintance; as we were exiting his office, I wanted to clear the air. “I don’t to be presumptuous, but I want you to know that when I come to visit you I come to visit YOU, not to get a job.”

He gave a quizzical look. “Yeah, and if by some miracle you or someone else might offer me a position here, I wouldn’t take it.” With raised eyebrows he asked, “Why in the world not?” Because, I said, “Your little town here doesn’t have an abortion clinic.”

“You see, I live in Jackson because it has so many places of serious need – my life, my church, my seminary can make a difference. I have to live around…need.”

My literary mentor is an old Methodist missionary named E. Stanley Jones. Jones said that when he got to heaven he would greet friends and family but then go to the Lord and say, “Thank you for the gift of heaven. But, dear Jesus, heaven for me, really, is telling other people about you. Is there a place in all your creation that hasn’t heard of you yet? That’s where I want to go.”

One of the worst places? Maybe. But I prefer to think of it as a place of need where Jesus wants me and mine to hunker down for His glory and His kingdom. Here I will stay.

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