“That was a tent city over there.” I look towards a small park tucked in the midst of a block across from where we were standing. “They cleared it out, called in buses and moved the people to housing.”
Randy Simmons had just parked his white van at the entrance to the Senior Center. It was a clear morning, the sun cutting shafts through the trees and a wind blowing crisp enough to remind you that spring was not here, not in this city, not yet.
We unloaded food, selections ranging from vegetables and fruit to sandwiches, meat, and snacks. They would go to help feed more than eighty residents of the facility. The food was spread on tables and separated by employees. Residents gather and wait as a young man traveling with us, one of the success stories, offers a prayer.
It is a run Simmons does on a weekly basis.
We cross the city, stopping outside City Lights shelter. Today’s construction project is assisting with the clean up on six floors of a building that had just suffered fire damage. A crowd gathers on the sidewalk. Simmons explains the job and the location. It will bring some activity, a little money, and lunch.
It will provide a sense of purpose.
Our last stop is the building itself. I watch the workers go inside. A Jeep pulls into the parking area. George and Nancy Lennert, a husband and wife team of real estate person/writer, and entrepreneurs , exit the van. We shake hands and talk about the story of Reading.
Simmons hurries from the lot, driving to Lowe’s to buy twenty brooms so his guys can work. Standing around does nothing. The work will always be there and the ones willing to step up and take the job can make a difference. Some will get hired and maybe grab the foundation they need.
We join hands in a circle, feet standing on muddied ground and heads bowed. Nancy (you can find her book here) offers a prayer, a genuine cry to see change in the city, for our words and actions to make a difference in the lives around us. The building behind us will become apartments, homes for those who need them.
The symbolism cuts in many ways. We are all burned buildings, our past behind us and a massive cleaning effort working in our hearts. We are projects and it takes the work of many dedicated men and women to finish the job.
I realized, as I drove away, that I had found a home. I found the men and women I needed to work with, to be around. I had found the ones I could help with these words, with this book. I had seen and felt God’s hand moving, the power of his love flowing in the streets.
This was purpose, the reason behind the story. This was power.
This is faith.