Before moving to Philadelphia to begin my year of service as an AV I tried to imagine what the city would be like. Coming from a home-grown town in Montana, I anticipated a shift in the pace of daily life, the scenery which would surround me, and the types of activities popular in the area. Most of all, I was looking forward to the people I would meet at my service site and within the program. I’ve learned that to know a city is to know its people, and Philadelphia is no exception. At the A.D.R.O.P. office, I have met many kind and generous people, some of whom have lived in Philly their whole life. This has meant a first-hand introduction to the best Italian cannolis, hoagies, and cheesesteaks shared in the company of those who have also been patient and gracious in taking time to show me new skills and incorporate me as a member of their team.
My time spent at St. Anthony’s Catholic School has also been an opportunity to hear stories of family roots in South Philadelphia. Miss Lisa, the teacher I work within the Pre-K classroom, was herself a student in the very room she now spends her days in when she was a Kindergartener. And Sister Carmela and Sister Mary Esther have been supportive and encouraging as I take on new roles at the school they’ve been involved in for 30 + years. Encountering these people on a daily basis has been such a wonderfully authentic way to experience this new place and start a new journey.
I thought that perhaps in a busy city it would be difficult to be known or to know others, but “the City of Brotherly Love” has a rich culture of being present to one another. Such as the time Ronnie, our clinic manager, wouldn’t hear of my riding the bus back home in a rainstorm and insisted I ride with her instead. Again and again, I am surprised by the small gestures of kindness that come from the variety of people I am with each day. I think in these ways I am learning more about service and what it means to give of self. When we give our trust, our time, our stories – pieces of ourselves – we speak to the heart and for just a moment know what is to be loved in even the most unfamiliar spaces.
Philadelphia, PA 2021-2022