Cross-Posted from FetLife
Before leaving the US, I used to spend my Saturdays working a few blocks away from Kensington and Somerset. There are some very nice places in Philadelphia. This was not one of them. Crime scene tape was a regular sight. Bars on windows came standard, at least for those not already boarded up.
Each morning as I got off the train, I entered a state of hypervigilance, scanning the street ahead, plotting crossings to take me away from any knots of people, mindful not to trip over the litter in the street, not to trod on the broken glass or the bodies of those gazing emptily, unaware of anything passing before them.
On my way to the shop, I passed one freshly-painted house that had forgone the bars, placing flower boxes on the windows instead. I’d often come across its owner sweeping her stoop each morning. On the surface, it was a futile task. How long could the few square feet of cleanliness last in this environment?
But this was no superficial action, this was a declaration of intent, a protest against what her neighbourhood had become. In the few words we exchanged, I could see her pride, feel her determination to bring respectability to this place. In watching her interact with the others on the street, I saw her recognise the core of dignity in these people, see strengths in them that I had not. I wondered what else I was missing, what other expressions of faith and love took place behind the barred windows.
I have a deep respect for her, living in this environment and not losing hope. She could have given up, or moved elsewhere, but chose to stay. This was her home.
Over the last several days, I’ve seen people I care for deeply say needlessly hurtful things. I try to read them with humor where that may have been intended, or to empathise with the pain that led them to lash out. I try to see beyond the insults to the substance of their message. I try to see if they or I may have misinterpreted and reacted overly harshly. I try to remind myself that they mean well, even if it might not seem so on first reading.
Over the last several days, I’ve seen people I don’t much care for say needlessly hurtful things. I try to afford them the same benefit of doubt. I struggle with this, but look for and learn from the examples of those who are more proficient.
But in the midst of the wreckage, I’ve seen glimpses of dignity- both from those living here and those passing through. I try to hold onto these things, lest they be lost to the fray. I’ve heard loving, tolerant things in private, jarringly out of step with those I see publicly. I try to remember that there are more of these caring messages that I don’t see, that just because the spiteful voices may sometimes seem the loudest does not mean that they are the only ones speaking.
It would be easier to turn away. To ignore the debates, to avoid events, to refrain from posting anything personal. I understand why some have made that choice, though I hope it is a temporary one.
But that is not my choice. I am not going anywhere. This is my home.*
*Written with FetLife in mind, but this site certainly feels more homey to me. On that note- thank you to those who comment here for being pleasant and respectful. You’ve been wonderful from the beginning, and I never realised how rare that is in online forums.