Our first on-site day of BASE Camp went very well despite ridiculously hot temperatures throughout the day. The young people worked, and sweated, and worked and sweated some more. But they never backed off on the work, despite a dead animal removal to start the day to spreading bag after bag of mulch in the hot afternoon sun. Attitude was great and we accomplished more than we were expected to.
At lunch we talked with Sr. Kitty about the history of this area of Baltimore as well as her own time here. She spoke of coming to the community in 1978, and despite a planned retirement spent in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia, she has continued her work against all the odds - a spiraling economy, issues with the city, her own battle with cancer - in her current and always home. Sr. Kitty talked frankly of "getting down" when she first found out she'd need to continue with her chemotherapy, but how she concluded that she wasn't going to let it get in her way, she wasn't going to allow it to slow her down, all because she still has much ministry to do in her beloved Hollins Market community. One of the Hezekiah Movement volunteers spoke with our group about the "broken, battered down and wounded" nature of the community. But he also strongly reminded our youth that they "give people hope" and lift people's hearts in the community by showing we care. A group of us were able to visit the site of one of our first community cleanups back in 2005 and see how the space has been turned into a lovely prayer and meditation garden. And how we'll have a hand in finishing it off in the days ahead.
The evening was filled with prayer and laughter and visits from old friends and new. The BASE Camp faithful met the new pastor for our soon-to-be-joined relationship with St. Agnes parish, Fr. Michael DeAscanis. Fr. Michael appeared impressed with the size of our group as well as our focus on the teachings of Mother Teresa this week. We shared with him a little about our work in the Southwest Baltimore community as well as our relationship with Sr. Kitty.
We spoke much of presence today. Not just our being present to the Southwest Baltimore community, but being present to one another in our own woundedness. And understanding that like the mustard seed of scripture we can grow big things from the smallest of seeds. We have the opportunity to make great change with the smallest of acts.