"HATE HAS NO HOME HERE"May 14, 2017 in the United States
(7) What about the service experiences is different than the service we do on the team?
Our Philadelphia service differed from that which we do in Winfield in that the concentration of poverty with which we were dealing was much heavier. Though we may serve food at a couple of Circles dinners in Winfield, the degree of poverty we see regularly and interact with on the team is not nearly to the degree we encountered in Philadelphia.
When we passed homeless people on the streets and walk through impoverished neighborhoods like Allegheny West, we were able to see the kinds of people Share Food, the Salvation Army, and Front Step interact with and help. We were more aware of the extreme with which we were combatting, making our work internalize in a personal way.
While working with Wes Tink of Front Step, some of us were able to interact with the people from the neighborhood we were cleaning. Experiences like this and meeting Emma, the neighborhood’s leader, showed us that our work did not go unnoticed. Our typical outdoor work in Winfield is a fundraiser, but labor simply to better a neighborhood without compensation brought further meaning to “service learning”: we were learning how our service could affect others, and that we didn’t need to be paid for it to mean something to our team.
Although some of our experiences were unsettling at times, like when a man dragged a girl by her hair and we got yelled at on the street, they were encouraging. Even in the face of unease, there is encouragement.
I get this encouragement because, though there were high crime rates (I checked) in some of the neighborhoods and high levels of poverty, there were people like Major Susan, Wes, and Emma trying to help. There was no way for them to help everyone, but they were helping those around them – and that was enough; therefore, I learned that, though initial perceptions may come across rough, there is always a silver lining. That silver lining may just be a person forming relationships with the people that we are first afraid of.
Despite the differences between Philadelphia and Winfield, it is encouraging to know that there are always people who are willing to put their heart on a limb to save a few people. They don’t care about their own wellbeing; instead, they care about relationships. They care about changing lives, and they are the types of leaders that our team can strive to be, that we can learn from. The work we do may not be glamorous and it may not be easy, but if unpacking toys for Major Susan is what it takes to change the lives of Philadelphian children, it is worth doing. People are people, and relationships matter over perceptions. We, as leaders, must focus on people’s insides before we care about their outsides.
Overall, the experience in Philadelphia was different than our service in Winfield entirely because of the context, the circumstances surrounding us. With higher poverty rates, a higher population, and a high demand for service, we were able to see situations unlike those we are used to, and learn how leaders like Wes and Major Susan were changing their worlds despite challenge.
Got to see Ben Franklin's grave and a lot of USA's other influential people's graves in a wonderful tour after church!
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