Begin Anywhere

[Ellie Kiger, 2015-16 participant] As the first year of community members at The Shalom Project, our lives have been a rush of recent beginnings. New city, new job, new church, new friends–and these are just the flashier changes. Now we’re painting the living room, collecting house plants, trying not to kill our fish, checking in with the neighbors, figuring out the city’s shortcuts*. Fall deepens, and our house looks more like a home, and we find that all these small, daily beginnings are the makings of a full, comfortable life together.

But we also encounter areas of urban life that feel like dead ends, and they are downright uncomfortable. We are learning that there is deep economic disparity; there are grossly overgrown, ineffective systems of criminal justice; there are gaps between good services and those in need. Erin, Lenore and I have talked about our hesitancy to engage these issues and struggled with a heavy sense of Overwhelm. Begin anywhere? Really though…where?

Physical life is strangely miraculous at its smallest scales, from the infinitesimal complexities of cellular life to the delicate veining of a fall leaf. Maybe a life of grace mirrors this reality, and maybe the smallest, hope-filled action can be strangely miraculous. No, I don’t have a life’s worth of dedication to give each worthy cause or the time to understand each person’s story. But I can trace a day’s worth of my own happiness to one surprising moment when I overhead a stranger belly laughing. Sometimes I sing (loudly) while riding my bicycle, sometimes I laugh; who knows who hears me?

So, big issues are big issues. They are and will remain uncomfortable. There are dedicated people working in Lancaster to create thriving discussions that lead to real change. At The Shalom Project, we will continue to listen and learn. And we we will seek out joy and act in hope, especially on the smallest of scales.

Begin anywhere.

*After careful analysis, Erin and I have determined that Lemon St. is a nearly hill-free way to travel from east to west in downtown Lancaster, while Orange St. is the hilliest. Hopefully, our research will save a few of you some strenuous pedaling.