There’s something about sitting in an aesthetically pleasing room, in my bed by the window, facing one of Philadelphia’s most eminent streets, Broad Street. I try and concentrate on my screen as my curiosity drives my peripheral vision to catch glimpses of all the speeding cars driving by. I wonder what is going on outside in my immediate surroundings. I can only imagine what kind of beauty, grace, love, and joy are taking place from the northern to southern ends of the city, all occurring on this very street that lies just outside my window. I envy the street for its all encompassing power…for its ability to bring people of varying socioeconomic status, class, race, and ethnicity together.
Though I feel the persistent beat of the city, pumping like a heart, trying so hard to make me go, go, go, and miss all the simple, magnificent moments, I fight against the propulsion, and attempt to be present. I am present. I have peace of mind. I am so extraordinarily thankful for my time here. I am appreciative of all my encounters. I am appreciative of my life.
Being in Philadelphia has finally given me the ability to give real, tangible meaning to the word community. In just a month and a half, I have seen community in a whole new light, and in a multitude of forms. I have learned what it is like to live in an intentional community, what it’s like to feel like I am an imperative component of a larger community, and that community can be created out of people with absolutely nothing in common if there is a driving force of love. Dictionary.com has yet to acknowledge my 3rd realization.
Every morning I am greeted with a “Hey, how are you this morning?” Initially I think to myself “UGH, it’s 7:30 in the morning, I wish I could hibernate in my bed right now. Are you serious?” After a deep breath, I am able to conceptualize the reality. Someone is initiating love. Someone that I barely know truly cares about how I am doing. This simple act changes my attitude for the whole day. “I’m doing great,” I reply. “How are you?”
This feeling of being cared for is replenished daily. I sometimes am asked what’s in store for the day, or at dinner time how my day went. I’ve never had people who barely know me ask me questions that were so conspicuously out of genuine care. It’s refreshing to know that not all questions involved with greeting, that we feel almost obligated to ask when we come into contact with another human being, have become regurgitated words without significance.
I think for once I have found peace. My experiences here have led me to have feelings that are contrary to the stereotypical descriptions of the city (loud, impersonal, chaotic, industrial, fast, crime filled, individualized, etc.). I have found that all the noises blend so beautifully together that I inexplicably have quiet. My encounters have been some of the friendliest and most smile provoking that I have ever had. I find order in the way different components of the community work together towards a common purpose. I’ve found there to be an endless surrounding of nature, flowers, trees, an urban garden and some of the most people filled parks. Lastly, I have found a plethora of nonprofit organizations, churches, and individuals working towards peace and justice. I smile and breathe with contentment at the hope and love and reconciliation that occurs daily. I am at peace.