Those of you who may have read my first few posts (found here and here) about the school I worked in for the last 4 years, know that I worked in a school that was 100 years old and falling apart at the seams.  Finally, the district moved forward with plans to build us a new school.  As a result, we are now relocated to a temporary location at 59th and Baltimore Streets, about 10 minutes away from our former location.  We are now situated in Southwest Philadelphia, and as a result, I now have a new commute to and from work every day.

On my drive home today, I passed boarded up houses, empty lots, burned out houses and abandoned properties.  While the scenery is not too different from the old neighborhood my school was in, it seems there is more blight here than in our former location in West Philadelphia, about 10 minutes North on 58th Street.

As I was coming around the curve that Greenway Avenue takes as it meets Grays Ferry Avenue, I saw an amazing sight.  On a lonely field, across from a car repair shop, adjacent to dilapidated rowhomes and bordering the main avenue that leads towards the Greys Ferry area–a neighborhood in Philadelphia rife with racial tensions and violence–I witnessed a baseball game.

The players were gathering around home plate and throwing the ball around to practice, while a player used a relic of a lawnmower — imagine the square kind with a ripcord and no bag, though at least it had a motor!–to mow the field before the game.  The players had obviously decided to clean up the field in order to use it.  In my 3 weeks of driving past the field, I had not once seen any sign of human life anywhere on the field until today.

In my neighborhood in South Philadelphia, there are a few baseball fields with advertising placards and local teams competing weekly.  This field was nothing like the fields in my neighborhood.  All I could think was that it really does come down to how we want our world to be.  Why let a perfectly good baseball field go to waste when all it takes is a handful of players and a lawnmower to play a game?  Sometimes we have to step in and take care of things ourselves to make our neighborhood and quality of life better.

Which brings us to the title of this post.

I thought about the phrase with which we are all familiar: “It takes a village to raise a child,” an African proverb made famous by Hillary Clinton.  Really, I thought, “It takes a village to raise a village.” Only WE can raise ourselves up, to keep our lives safe, happy and fulfilling.  No one else is going to do it for us.  From Block Captains, to Neighborhood Watch, to schools and Community organizations, we raise each other.  We don’t work in isolation (and if we do, then we don’t really ‘work’).  We are not only concerned with raising our children, but also we should also be concerned about the environment in which that child will live and grow.  This environment is ours alone, and it is our children who will care for us when we are no longer capable of doing so.  Our village can be either self-sustaining or self-destructive. It’s our choice.

Lawn Mower Man photo courtesy of viking_79 on Flickr 
Baseball field photo courtesy of MISSNAP on Flickr
Philadelphia rowhomes photo courtesy of Bob Jagendorf on Flickr

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