Last time I went to Sacks Playground I think it was my friend Zack’s 8th birthday party (but that was only a couple of years ago). A woman I talked to at this playground on Monday hadn’t been there in a while either. Our similarly aged boys were playing with each other so we were chatting. She said, “I think I see my family over there, but I’m not sure they’ll even recognize me because I don’t come down here like that, you know?”
“Where do you live?” I asked.
“Oh, I live up on 17th Street,” she answered.
She lived 12 to 15 blocks away- a 25 minute walk – a 9 minute bike ride – an 8 minute car ride – a 23 minute bus ride (thanks, Google maps)… And yet that distance had separated her from her extended family. Certainly there is more going on in her family than I know, but I thought this anecdote illustrative of the division that Philly is unfortunately famous for and the way that division was being defied at this interestingly diverse event.
I went to the kick off event for National Month Out, an expansion of the national event, National Night Out. The focus is safety and “taking back the night” from unsavory characters. I heard about it from Passyunk Square Civic Association so I thought I would be a good neighbor and show up. City council people, and firemen and police officers were there. Mayor Nutter mad an appearance and there were representatives from crime prevention and youth engagement organizations–but I was most impressed by the diversity I encountered.
I was invited by a mostly white organization (though I’m sure they would object to that classification justly) and they were there, the playground was full of children shouting in Spanish, the black kids were on the basketball court, a rapper was singing a duet with his son (very sweet), a drug prevention program called Shalom Inc. was represented by a middle aged Jewish woman, the mostly white fire engine crew was showing off their shiny rig… It was fascinating!
One of our pastors at Circle of Hope was talking at our Public Meeting on Sunday reassuring us that the Holy Spirit has gone before us and is at work before we get to where we are going. He told some stories, among them the story of Phillip in Acts 8, who was moved by the Holy Spirit to go and stand by a chariot that just so happened to be occupied by someone who was interested in the meaning of Isaiah 53– which is a very powerful prophecy pointing to Jesus. Great things ensued- receptivity, boundary crossing, baptism and more.
I went to Sacks playground to be a good neighbor and to stand by a chariot so to speak. Nothing so dramatic as Acts 8 occurred but I did see the Holy Spirit at work before me in the way our incredibly diverse neighborhood came together in an uncommon way. I pray that our divided city would continue to come together and that the Holy Spirit will continue to be a part of making that happen.