I don’t doubt that the new year gives some people the resolve to change self-destructive tendencies. But I’ve learned, through hard-won experience, that change is rarely spurred by a date on a calendar. Change is most often driven by the desire to overcome pain.
Smokers change when they can’t breathe anymore. Gamblers change when they lose nearly everything. Alcoholics change when they hit rock bottom. And those who don’t—those who tempt fate by seeking more pain—are the ones who hit the lowest bottom of all.
But there are those rare occasions when change is driven by circumstance; when resolve is the result of opportunity. I suspect that this year will be such an occasion for me, because I’ll be able to use my writing to make change. With that in mind, I’m making a resolution. I resolve to write the truth about the city that I love, and to do so from every perspective I can find.
Perhaps that’s just as trite as the resolutions I’ve seen others make. Maybe it’s not even necessary. But when I watch the news with my 8-year-old son and he turns to me and says, “There’s a lot of crime near our neighborhood,” something about our city is not being communicated. The whole truth is not being told.
Don’t misunderstand me. My son’s perception is at least partly right. There is crime all around us, and it’s getting closer. Our neighbor’s home was burglarized in the early morning hours just days ago. The 7-Eleven a half-mile from our home was robbed twice in one week. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Not by a long shot.
When I reached out to find out what people were doing to make change in Philadelphia, I heard the kinds of stories we rarely see on the news. Rashida Ali-Campbell said she heads an organization that takes free fresh fruit and vegetables into impoverished communities. Rev. Nancy Muth of the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown said her members wrote letters to a local gun shop owner to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands. Cheryl Seay, whose son, Jarrell, lost his life to gun violence, said she and her husband started a foundation in memory of her son. In short, people went out and did something. They continued to fight, and in 2013, I resolve to use my pen to help them.
In a region whose diversity ranges from the generational wealth of the Main Line, to the hardscrabble realities of impoverished communities, I believe there are thousands of stories of heartache and pain, and struggle and triumph. In 2013, I resolve to tell them.
Why? Because in my 45 years as a Philadelphian, I’ve experienced our city in ways that few people have. I’ve gotten to know people in the halls of power and people in the halls of abandoned houses. I’ve lived in communities where the most precious commodity was hope, and slept on streets that others can only talk about. I’ve worked with leaders no one has ever heard of, and others that are household names.
In 2013, I resolve to reach back through my years of experience to find Philadelphia’s truth. What will you resolve to do to help?