Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cleaning up the neighborhood

Over the weekend, I participated in a work project in the Springfield neighborhood. A group of concerned residents who want to improve the quality of life in the community met to clean-up a row of homes that have been vacant and used for a variety of illegal activities. Several of the porches were serving as makeshift homes and there was trash, clothing and drug paraphernalia strewn about. The place was a mess before we started, but after a couple of hours, it looked like a totally different place.

As I worked, I reflected. Several thoughts and questions kept coming to mind:

  1. Why is it so much easier to clean up other people's weeds and garbage than to deal with my own?!

  2. Initially, I asked what drives a person to live in a state of such despair and hopelessness? A few minutes later, I remembered that I could be that person if I were to lose my job, my family, or my health.

  3. How can we be effective in treating the systemic issues that only perpetuate the problems we "cleaned up" today? It's the more difficult work, but it's necessary.

In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster classifies service as a spiritual discipline. According to Foster,

"Radical self-denial gives the feel of adventure. If we forsake all, we even have the chance of glorious martyrdom. But in service we must experience the many little deaths of going beyond ourselves. Service banishes us to the mundane, the ordinary, the trivial."
I admit sometimes I am more attracted to the grander expressions of faith and to those things that help me escape the mundane. In service, though, I am moved to recover my place, to see my connectedness to God and other, and to humbly acknowledge what I have failed to really "see" in my frantic pace.

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