Meet Susy Flory, the New York Times best selling author of Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero.
A couple of months ago, Susy and her husband Robert decided to sell their house in the suburbs and move across the bay to a high-rise apartment in San Francisco. We sat down with Susy last week to chat about the transition.
4word: What prompted you to make the move? Was it for one of your jobs?
Susy: We moved to San Francisco for an empty nester adventure.
Our son is about to graduate and move to the East Coast to teach nuclear engineering with the Navy. Our daughter is now a freshman at San Francisco State. We got a two-bedroom apartment just in case she would ever need to come home, but she’s pretty independent minded. My mother lived with us for 17 years, and she’s now in senior housing.
The Flory’s old suburban neighborhood.
It was just two of us in a five-bedroom house, and we didn’t want to be tied down anymore. We both have intense jobs and love to travel, so we decided to downsize, free ourselves up and try urban living.
We both felt it was a fresh start as a couple: as professionals in a new stimulating environment, and as Christ-followers who have a strong desire to get beyond the walls of the church.
4word: How is the transition from suburban to urban life?
Susy: People are really friendly. Everyone here is from somewhere else, so they all want to meet other people. There is much more of a community feeling here in this giant city than in the suburb where I lived across the bay. Since we walk everywhere, you see neighbors much more often. People say hello and chat easily.
Alamo Square Park, a few blocks away from their new home in San Francisco.
4word: Is there anything that’s been difficult about learning to live in the big city?
Susy: Well for one thing, I underestimated the hard realities of encounters with homeless people. There are thousands of them up and down Market Street, one of the major arteries of the city outside our front door. If you walk for a few minutes, you will probably get asked for money.
The other evening we went out for dinner a few blocks away and I probably got asked 10 times for money. I can’t give money to everyone who asks, obviously. As a Christian, it’s a big dilemma. How do I help these people? It’s hard not to feel guilty about saying no.
4word: It sounds like God is really using this transition to help you grow.
Susy: He certainly is. I am realizing I’m part of this community now, and while my neighbors are mostly very different from me, there are moments of beauty and grace.
Last week I was walking down Market Street and I smiled at two homeless guys. The tall one said, “You’re so pretty.” The short one, who turned out to be blind, said, “I’m George,” and thrust out his hand. I shook his hand and told him my name. He squeezed my hand, then kissed it gently, and said, “Nice to meet you, Beautiful Lady.” They weren’t scary and they didn’t want anything from me, although I was expecting to be asked.
We all continued on our way and I wasn’t quite sure what to think, other than that simple greetings and smiles can mean a lot. Why don’t I say hello more? Smile more?
4word: So, six weeks into the move, has it been the fresh start you thought it would be?
Susy: When we moved, we anticipated a year of “us” time, just enjoying being a couple and exploring the city. But while we were still unpacking, we had a couple of crisis situations erupt in our family, and we’re having to deal with those difficult situations and all of the emotions involved while still trusting that God is at work. “Trust in the slow work of God,” from a poem by a French priest, is my mantra these days.
I’m realizing that even though we’re empty nesters, I’m still a mom, a sister, and a daughter, and I always will be. Those relationships are precious but demanding at times. Changing your location and style of living doesn’t mean instant release from problems and crises–those follow you wherever you go. I’m realizing that God has certain work for me to do and that I need to be sensitive to what falls in my lap and how I should respond.
Have you ever been through a big transition – changing cities, changing jobs, etc.? Let us know in the comments.
And if you’d like to hear more from Susy, you can read her blog at susyflory.com or follower her on Twitter, @susyflory.