Near my house, train tracks which have lain dormant for decades have been rehabilitated, and the Marin Sonoma SMART train is gearing up to begin service later this year. I live on a rehabilitated Air Force base called Hamilton Field, and I walk, nearly every day, in between blight of abandoned military buildings, million-or-two dollar homes, affordable apartments (in Marin County, this means a family living on 60-70 thousand a year) and everything in between. Cutting through the base, and hoping to become a servicable form of public transportation, runs the SMART train. In the middle of my walk, I find a picture of democracy:
A simple pedestrian crossing of the SMART train track. That's it, democracy in plain view.
This small feature has become a minor flashpoint in my neighborhood. The train needs to honk its horn before it approaches any crossing. So the train honks when it comes past this little crossing. Some people don't like the honking. Some people do. Some people want it to be softer. Some people want to take the crossing out all together and put up a fence. All sorts of opinions. There are city planning meetings, neighborhood groups, surely more community polls. This all takes time, money and investment of all kinds by well-meaning people. This is the cost - and a good use of our money - of democracy.
Jesus would have us ask another question. Where do the least of these fit in to this crossing? None of us who own homes really fit into the category of "the least of these." The least of these are the people without voices. In my neighborhood, I am thinking of residents of the Homeward Bound Shelter who walk everywhere. I am thinking of the Seniors who will move into the affordable senior housing complex to be built across the street from my house. I am thinking of the workers at the local shopping center who walk, bike, take the bus, and will presumably ride the SMART train to work from places outside Marin County. These are the people we need to take into account as we make these decisions. Instead of "my preference", Jesus would ask us to consider the common good. Revolutionary, I know.
I am also thinking about the original goal of the base redevelopment...a new town for everyone in Marin. If we want to walk everywhere, bike everywhere, live together, then let's build more crossings and fewer fences.