a few words on downward mobility



For the people who critique downward mobility, the term: 

I’m sorry. It’s just words. Use different words if you need to. I use it as an easy, succinct way to describe consciously choosing to not pursue climbing the ladder of the American dream. Smaller living spaces, simple living, done with reconciliation and relationship as the goal. Arguing about the terms is boring and useless. In fact, arguing in general just tires me out.



For the people who critique downward mobility, the practice:

This is probably not the series for you.



For the people who feel guilty, or shamed in regards to conversations about downward mobility:

I’m sorry. Nothing good ever comes from guilt. But everything beautiful comes from love.



For the people who feel like failures: 

You’re not. You’re not. You’re not.



For the practitioners, the people who are trying to live this out, in one or two or twenty very small ways; to the people living with mice and cockroaches and bedbugs, those with neighbors who slam doors in their faces or cook them a lovely pot of curry; those who lay awake at night thinking about violence and abuse and neglect and grief; for those with one coat or one bike or pots with no lids; for those who work all day with little or no recognition, who hang out with the mentally ill and the lonely and the brusque; for those who love the urine-soaked city streets and the quiet rural poor; for those that cook big pots of lentil soup, who leave the doors unlocked, who see the world as big and broken and offer up what little you have, the tiny, laughable loaves and fishes of your life, your privilege, your face, your body, your hands and face and smile, day after day after day, in the neighborhoods far from where you grew up:

I love you.

May the peace of Christ be with you, wherever he may send you.

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11 thoughts on “a few words on downward mobility

  1. […] taken from D.L. Mayfield’s ‘A Few Words on Downward Mobility’ […]

  2. Amy says:

    Oh honey. So well said.

  3. Jim Fisher says:

    Oh this is so perfect! Thank you.

  4. khargaden says:

    You know you Mayfields are gradually eroding my scepticism about these “words”. But why is this about the American dream? If this is right, doesn’t it apply to the Brazilians and Singaporeans and Irish people as well?

    • oh you, calling me out on my myopic-ness. but seriously, sometimes it is hard for me to remember that i am writing in a public space, and people other than my mom are reading. because both me and my mom are Americans 🙂

      i probably need to be more aware of this.

  5. Bill says:

    It is often so difficult to have this conversation. Advocacy of a life of voluntary simplicity in interpreted by some as an attack on them, or as self-righteousness. I appreciate your beautiful words here.

    I am reminded of Wendell Berry’s statement: “We must achieve the character, and acquire the skills, to live much poorer than we do.”

  6. Angela says:

    Are people who are ACTUALLY POOR allowed to critique “Downward Mobility”, though? I mean, some people don’t get to be “Downward Mobile Dropouts” because they can’t just move away from poverty, or move back in with their parents.

    • Everyone is “allowed” to critique it. This particular series was meant to be more encouraging towards those who are called to the vocation of simplicity and service. I would dearly love to hear more perspectives and critiques from those who don’t have the same degree of social mobility.

  7. […] something I read on D.L. Mayfield’s blog (HERE) has helped me.  In a post about downward mobility she […]

  8. […] perspective has intrigued and challenged me. Her blog was the first place I came across the term “downward mobility,” and her conviction that Jesus’s teachings and the American dream might be at odds has set off […]

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