Face in the dirt, kicked, beaten and still struggling to get back up.
A city fallen, hard pressed and abused, Detroit choked down more than its share of financial reversals, bankruptcies, crime sprees, corruption, mismanagement. I was there last weekend. The day of the event was my own, so I walked through the abandoned, graffiti-spattered brick buildings looking down on me from broken out windows.
Around a corner, a small group of people stood. The bedraggled, mournful group had the empty eyed look of the buildings I had walked past; empty, homeless, hopeless, helpless. They stood outside a stone church. “Spirit of Hope,” was the hand-painted sign leaning up against the wrought iron gate surrounding an ancient gothic stone, stained glass church building. “Everybody eats,” also read the sign.
Around back, the open door spilled the aroma of hot food. Inside a shorthanded group of kitchen workers filled plates, handed out trays, cool-aid and smiles. “Thanks for coming.” “Need another helping?” “Glad to see you today.”
“Anything I can do to help for a couple of hours?” It was an easy group to join. “Sure, grab that towel, wipe trays and pour juice.” I worked alongside Emily. She was twenty two… maybe. A struggling artist that had moved into an ancient crumbling ‘Crow Manor’ – the artist commune of painters, sculptors, musicians, – next door. Selling hand made jewelry was her only means of support. Her story was a sad children’s tale of getting kicked, beaten and abused. Running away. Running again. Finally running into Pastor John at the Spirit of Hope church. First she just needed to receive. To heal. Then slowly began to contribute. It was a good story.
After the last pot had been washed, Emily showed me around back where she pulled weeds, tended, harvested an overflowing garden. Giant tomatoes, squash as big as two liter coke bottles, green beans, lettuce, kale, melons, grew abundantly. And chickens. Eggs. Pigs. It was an abandoned, empty lot that tilled, watered, planted and cared for was yielding a harvest. Growing the spirit of hope. Detroit is being redeemed one empty lot, one abandoned house, one recycled church, one broken life at a time.