"Love has a hem to her garment that reaches the very dust. It sweeps the stains from the streets and lanes, and because it can, it must." ~ Mother Teresa
Our third day of site work was brutally hot. Again and again people say to me "You certainly seem to pick the hottest week" for BASE Camp. Trust me, I had nothing to do with the picking. And it does seem that over the last few years our mid-June forays into Southwest Baltimore have been ridiculously hot. But as much as our participants acknowledge the heat I haven't really heard complaints about the heat. It is almost a source of pride that despite the less-than-ideal weather conditions our group presses on, and not only completes our assigned tasks but move beyond them.
Most of our group started the day attacking the Pratt Street lot which was a major undertaking in 2009. And although it wasn't easy work by any means this year, we were clearly able to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time thanks not only to last year's work during BASE Camp, but also due to the efforts of a group of our young people that returned to the site (on their own initiative) later in 2009 to work on the lot a second time. Our crew dug in and dove in, clearing the lot of trash and debris and mowing the grass.
But that wasn't all we did. One group worked with a volunteer from Southwest Visions and moved up and down local streets clearing weeds and removing trash. Other groups continued our work this week with the "Clean and Green" program that operates out of the Bon Secours of Maryland Foundation facility. "Clean and Green" is dedicated to improving the quality of life in Southwest Baltimore by turning acres of vacant lots in the area into attractive green spaces. We've worked with this organization for a number of years through Southwest Visions, most significantly with the creation and maintenance of a community vegetable garden on the corner of Fulton Avenue and Lexington Street.
We took a group of young people to Traci Atkins Park on Stricker Street to clear trash. The park was created in memory of a young girl who died after being struck by a car. She had been playing in the street because in her neighborhood there was nowhere safer to play. This was our second trip to the park and within a very short while we had it cleaned up and looking presentable and attractive.
Another group assisted at one of our favorite sites, St. Peter's Adult Learning Center which serves developmentally disabled adults in Baltimore City. Our group there helps with anything that can possibly be done... moving furniture, washing vehicles, weeding a lovely prayer garden we've been instrumental in maintaining throughout our years of BASE Camp. And of course, interacting with the center's clients, always some of the most joyful people we encounter in Southwest.
We also squeezed in a walking tour for our BASE Camp "newbies" to the Arab stable on Carlton Street. A true and unfortunately diminishing piece of Baltimore history, our young people have always enjoyed hearing about the long history (this particular stable - one of only two remaining in Baltimore - has been in operation for 110 years) and of course having the opportunity to visit with and feed the stable's "residents." Our young friend Donte always seems happy to see our group come and visit each year, and you can see the great pride he has in the work they do there.
Our evening was filled with much laughter and joy and more than a few tears. A constant stream of BASE Camp alumni kept things lively at our home base, and our young adults had the opportunity to sit down with Fr. Marty and speak with him about all he has meant to our parish community and youth ministry program at St. William of York. Fr. Marty will be moving on next week to a new parish assignment, but his legacy of support for youth at St. Will's will carry on, and carry on due to the efforts and involvement of the many youth and young adults whose hearts he has touched during his 14 years at the parish.
Our packed day finally ended with stories and thoughts and prayers of witness... of Kevin, who worked with the Clean and Green crew and all he shared about his life struggles with drug abuse and how his faith has saved and sustained him. Of Donte at the Arab stable, the latest of generations of people who have worked served the residents of Southwest Baltimore. Of Chip Woods at St. Peter's and his constant energy and joy in what he does to make the community a better place to live and work for all it's residents. And of course, of Fr. Marty and all he has meant for our family.
The list goes on and on. And as we manifest that "garment of love" in what we do for Southwest Baltimore our young people can be secure in the knowledge that they also are joining that great cloud of witnesses to the faith. Witnesses to what it means to be a person of Christ in our world today. Witnesses that live the "E" of Evangelization (in BASE Camp) in everything we do.