By Don Hopkins
In the past month I had the exciting opportunity to visit The Crefeld School in Chestnut Hill to organize a food drive for the food cupboard and give a presentation on poverty and the Saint Mark’s Outreach Ministry. I always enjoy the chance to educate people on the moral crisis of need in my home city and to highlight what we are doing here at Saint Mark’s to alleviate it, in hopes of provoking other people to take part. I believe part of our ministry to the poor should be to work to build up a community devoted to service on the part of the marginalized and vulnerable.
We live in an era in which cynicism and complacency often seem to be the pervasive mood of the time. I often find the cure for this heavy atmosphere of cynicism, which often masks itself as realism, is to work with students, who in the midst of their adolescence, still feel free enough from the bonds of every day adult life and toil, to engage in a search for authenticity and are often still willing to take a chance and pin their hopes on some sort of idealism. Young people, trying to find their own identity as distinct from their household, are often more willing to take a chance and risk embarrassment, disappointment, or failure in the pursuit of something grand.
In this regard, the Crefeld Students did not disappoint. They were very eager to learn about the nature of poverty in Philadelphia, the rate of homelessness, and the profound physical and spiritual hunger that can be found all throughout our city. Not only were they excited to learn, they were inquisitive about ways they could get involved to help. Questions about where to volunteer, what kind of items were in demand, and whether there were larger, more abstract issues of justice and ethics, were at play in our discussion of poverty and need. Some might be a bit put off by their willingness to dream up big ideas, considering that poverty is a concrete concern for so many but I was inspired by their enthusiasm.
It is easy to get cynical and bogged down by the seemingly unending hunger in our city. With rising costs from healthcare to housing, a public education system that doesn’t seem to offer an avenue of opportunity, and the ever growing numbness to the pain and suffering of the marginalized and vulnerable by those in positions of power and wealth in our society, we can lose sight of the call to us by Christ to pick up our cross and follow him. To be a Christian is to make one vulnerable and there is a great vulnerability that comes with idealism, with putting oneself out there for the sake of a big idea, for a big dream. The road of radical hope is through a narrow gate, indeed. However, please remember, the words of our lord: "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” May these words remind to remain ever hopeful for a better and more just world. God Bless.
Don's Ministry Placement is as Outreach Coordinator at St. Mark's Church.