I would feel remiss if I did not share some thoughts on behalf of my family on what Cranford has so aptly referred to as “the most amazing tour of center city Philadelphia”. My husband Craig, “the girls” and I joined 18 of our brothers and sisters in Christ Saturday morning to tour areas of center city that many of our “Thursday night friends” (a nickname that I believe Stephanie has given the hungry and homeless people that we serve) call home. I didn’t realize until we reached our first stop, the Love Park, that our tour would take us back to parts of the City of Brotherly Love where I spent so much time when I worked in center city. The Love Park was a favorite spot for meeting friends at lunchtime. Seems it still is!
I recall seeing many homeless people at the Love Park during those lunch time visits 15 – 20 years ago, nearly every time I was there. What I didn’t remember noticing as much back then as I noticed on Saturday, were their beautiful smiles, the gratitude in their eyes and their kind and gentle spirits as we handed out servings of spaghetti, peanuts, sandwiches and power packs. Craig, the girls and I were all taken aback by the sheer number of hungry and homeless that we saw on Saturday, even though on any given Thursday night, we may have 50 to 100 people lining up for food! I don’t remember seeing so many, years ago.
Before Craig and I married, I commuted by train to work from Chester County. Every work day I would walk through the concourse level, either coming into or leaving center city. Back then, the concourse seemed so dreary and dirty. As we walked down from the street level on Saturday, I noticed immediately that it looked different. I was pleased to see that improvements had been made and perhaps better lighting installed. I asked Fred if he knew how often the floors were cleaned? He told us they were cleaned every day. Thanks be to God! Craig used the concourse rest room (something I most likely avoided doing back when I was commuting). When Craig came out from the rest room, he shared with us that he had spotted one of our Thursday night friends in the restroom enjoying a sponge bath. It made me smile and I was comforted a little as I thought about how much better our friend would feel after washing up! Going down another level to the train platform, I had a hard time reconciling the idea that the homeless had encampments right there by the train tracks that I used day in and day out to take me back to my warm, comfortable home in the country. As I listened to Fred describe some of the encampments, I gave thanks for the many blessings and for the gifts and talents that God has bestowed on each one of us. Imagine what could be accomplished if we would just take the time to tap into some of the creativity and resourcefulness that many of our homeless friends have been blessed with!
Stopping at the Dunkin Donuts and seeing the costly and drastic measures they, like many other businesses, have taken to prevent the hungry from taking food that is being thrown out, was very thought provoking. Logic and Love lead to the question of how this wasteful, terrible disconnect can simply be connected? Thy will be done. There must be a way. Visiting the spot that was Bruce’s at the corner of 18th and Vine Streets gave me a glimpse into how faithful and courageous our Thursday night friends must be.
We were sorry that we had to leave before the end of our tour, but even though we missed the most awesomest (and that’s being dittoed by an English major) part of the tour, Craig, the girls and I all thought it was the most awesomest tour of center city we had ever taken, too! I’m hoping that Fred will consider doing another one somewhere down the road, perhaps even when it isn’t perfect weather for being on the streets?!
Craig, the girls and I are all very grateful to be a part of this life-changing ministry and for the awesomest tour that Fred so thoughtfully conducted! Last but not least, we are immensely thankful for the many blessings, the spiritual nourishment and the JOY that our Thursday night friends so lovingly provide us when we are with them.
n closing, I’d like to include a quote from The Prologue of Ohrid, St. Nikolai Velimirovich as my friend and brother in Christ John just shared this with me today:
He, who mocks the naked and hungry soldier, mocks his king. He, who mocks the poor, shames his Creator. If you know that the poor man’s Creator is your Creator, the one and the same, you would not mock him. If you know that the poor man stands in the same military rank in which you are also, you will cover him, feed him and you will bring him closer to yourself.
O, Omnipotent Lord, boundless is Your wisdom in the economy of Your creation. Illumine us by Your Holy Spirit that we may marvel at that economy and, with reverence and love, gaze upon all of Your creation, gazing upon them through You.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.