As we were leaving, both this week and last week the group leaders pointed out a building across the street.
"Look, there's an abandoned church for sale, right across the street."
That's a pretty sweet looking church. Philly is full of them, too. And when you turn around you see a live chicken store and an unassuming brick building with a red awning proclaiming "Chosen 300" across the top, but it's a church nonetheless. It's this contrast that reminds me how much Philly has changed over the years and how the church can adapt to the needs of a city.
My groups were there to help serve breakfast to the men and women who came to church that day, and in another moment of contrast I saw a line of kids from another part of the world standing alongside trays of grits and eggs across from a hungry congregation of mostly long time, weathered Philadelphians. Contrast. You know, it's a little awkward at first to have lines so distinctly drawn, but then you all sit down to a warm plate of grits and suddenly everyone's pretty happy.
I really believe in what I do and the impact a week here can have on a group or on places in Philly, but I have to admit, sometimes I wonder why anyone would come to Philly for only a few days. Why come to this city that's not you're own, be uncomfortable all week, invest in people you may never see again, and then go home? At some points, it just doesn't make sense.
So I'm standing outside these three white fifteen passenger vans watching my group attempt to unload (it's a process, let me tell you) and this man was walking along the street. This was last Saturday night (read: St. Patty's day warmup) and we were in Center City, in a pretty high end area getting ready to meet some of the homeless who live there, so the guy who came up to us looks (smells) like he's started a few hours earlier and he was asking us how to get to the Parkway (read: a bar). So, I turn him around and send him the opposite way of our group and I look back over this laughing bunch of kids and parents as they pass out socks and chapsticks between them and I think, "You know what, they're here." And the simplicity of that made me smile.
Sometimes you need it in order to see what's right under your nose. My hope is always that these groups go home and learn how to see their own town in a different way, or their own lives, or their own schools. Any little bit is why I do this. To have one person look to someone out of love and realize the need and humanity in another person and see that maybe there isn't so much of a difference between us, but that contrast will highlight that we are essentially all the same. Contrast defines the dark from the light, helps us see the image clearer, and maybe it can help us define what isn't worth holding on to, and what is.
Oh, and here's something else for contrast:
Yeah, a group did that.
*Thanks to Google maps for the first two images!