Pastor’s note: This week’s E-pistle is written by three guest writers:
~ Maxwell and Richard Brooke are twin brothers, recent college graduates, and UCC volunteers in mission. Their assignment this year is to travel to service sites where the UCC has placed other volunteers in mission. The Brooke brothers are highlighting the services UCC volunteers provide through video, photos, and blogging. You can keep up with their journey at www.TwinMaps.com.
~ Our other guest writer is a former homeless veteran named Matthew, who I don’t know if any of us at this point know in person. Out of the blue yesterday, he e-mailed us the thank-you note that follows the Brooke’s reflection. I have written Matthew to thank him for his note and share our joy over hearing how well he is doing.
I thought the two pieces creatively complemented one another.
Maxwell and Richard write:
“When we were told that we would be traveling to Philadelphia, we were a bit concerned. Our only exposure to Philadelphians was to its football fans. And on national events, sports broadcasters always mention that this was “the city that booed Santa Claus.”
After being here a week, we now believe now that sports broadcasters stretch the truth when it comes to Philadelphians.
You are all very nice people. This city is cold this time of year, but your hearts are quite warm.
And that’s been probably the biggest lesson we’ve learned since we’ve started this adventure: We shouldn’t judge things based upon what we hear from other people. We’ve only been two months into our journey across this nation, and we’ve become painfully aware of prejudices that we used to hold.
You hear claims that those who are chronically homeless are lazy and the only way they can get out of homelessness is for people to stop giving them handouts and force them to find a permanent home. People bark that schizophrenics are not like us, and they need to be placed in mental institutions. Doubters believe that they cannot help low income families in foreign countries.
Quite the contrary, we argue.
Sometimes, we need to lend our neighbor a hand so they can get out of tough economic times. Those diagnosed with schizophrenia have the ability to create art and be contributing members of society. Low income families feel the affect of your consumption habits daily.
We know this because we’ve seen each of these things in action.
And the most incredible thing about each of these initiatives is that they work: they make an immediate and active difference in their community. The reason they work? The story remains the same at every place we visit: a group of concerned citizens joined their talents together to help out those in need. The citizens organized themselves and found a way to overcome challenges and face doubt head-on.
It is their passion for their service that keeps them coming back to continually serve, and that same passion that invigorates others to join their cause.
And the weird thing is, Old First has had that sense of passion and commitment to service since its inception. History here goes back further than the Declaration, but the desire to help your fellow man has not been extinguished.
Your ability to change your community is limited only by the restraints you put on yourself.
Don’t sell yourself short, Philly. You’ve proven to us just how incredible you are.”
“Hi, my name is Matthew, and I just wanted to thank Old First for all that you have done for me in the past. I was a homeless vet who used to come to your church services and also get clothes and food from the mission workers there.
I am deeply grateful and would like to thank you for helping me through those hard times in my life.
I have since, gotten my life back on track and have moved to Florida where I work for a drug and alcohol treatment center. I found that, through your guidance and example, that service to others is what I wanted to do with my life.
Through all of my life’s challenges God has never left me and has given me the ability to see that my old way of life was destructive and unproductive. I don’t remember any names of anyone I met there but I do know that your church is where I got a spark of spirituality that still grows today.
Thank You again,
Your friend, Matthew”