Camden: Day 4; Night 5

Today was filled with stories. Several were related to Camden itself, and the history of its diminishing economy; others contained fragments of the children’s stories, and what their lives are like outside of school; lastly, some were of the origin of Urban Promise, and how Bruce Main, the founder, successfully walked the line between idealism and reality to keep the heartbeat of a dying city alive.

It was our first day working with the kids – one of both excitement and nervousness. However, despite the apprehension, we all managed to throw ourselves out there to be a part of something we still hardly understood. I lumbered into the art room, hung out with Miss Julie for a bit, and casually prepped for the upcoming class. She strictly told me that I wasn’t to distract to the kids or get them off track. Instead, my job was to help discipline and make sure they got their work done. Dang. So much for relating to the children. Honestly, though, aside from that she’s a wonderful woman, and we talked a lot about her Catholic faith and it’s liturgy, as well as Camden and what it’s gone through over the years. Her perspective was just like everybody else’s I’ve talked to: hopeless with no apparent solution.

I didn’t necessarily get to teach today, but I did help with painting and verbally aiding the kids along the way. The younger ones were definitely wanting to chit chat and tell me about themselves while the older classes merely said hello. I’m not quite sure what to expect from them. Turns out I get to go on a fieldtrip to the Philly Art Museum with the 10th grade class on Friday. Boom Yahtzee. Even if the kids don’t like me, I’ll be living it up in that place!

The day flew by quickly, and soon enough it was 3:30. Instead of going to an after school program, UP decided to capitalize on the fact that we were insured under one of their vehicles, and sent us on a long errand run to west Jersey to pick up some things from a church. Vehicle provided: 12-passenger van. It looked like a whale with the color of a taxi, and it’s steering tilted to the right. By the grace of God we managed to get to the intended site, fill up the van, and make it back to campus safely. We even drove through a part of north Camden – the most dangerous area – while we ate McFlurries. Doesn’t get much more hardcore than that.

Short after, we had tea with Bruce Main, a stud in his own right. He essentially just opened up the night for us to ask questions of him. This led to learning more about how UP was founded, and how, as a college kid, he pushed the boundaries of typical thinking and strived for something beyond his grasp. I’m not going to go into his story here, but I will say that it had me thinking more about how there is a much bigger picture out there than what we typically see, or even try to comprehend seeing. He said that college kids are often idealists, but when they graduate, that idealism slowly dies off, and we begin to settle for things that were once catered to with an undying passion. Snap, now that’s a man who speaks the truth! I’ve worried about this for a while in the past year, afraid that the zeal I’ve had in college may be swept away in my post-grad life of careers and 401k’s.

Life simply wouldn’t be as good without a little whimsy guiding my decisions.

Tomorrow we have the same routine; it just won’t be a 14-hour day. Keep praying too, please. Especially for this kid named Lewis. Miss Julie said he is the most talented student she’s ever taught, except that he’s had a real rough upbringing, and has a court date on Thursday determining whether or not he’ll be in jail. He’s 16 and she said he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. I believe her. In fact, I think all these kids are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Camden, as we know it now, is not a suitable place for these children to live. At least Urban Promise is making it bearable.



~ by Chris Kyle on December 13, 2010.

2 Responses to “Camden: Day 4; Night 5”

  1. good thoughts. and i don’t want to lose my idealism either. or at least my commitment to doing the right thing, no matter the cost. hold me accountable.

  2. I so enjoy reading about your trip. Be encouraged my friend. You’re doing good work. God’s work. I like reading your processing, of even the stuff behind the frontline work. DO WORK.

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