On January 9, 1998, five friends and I moved into a little row-house in North Philadelphia, and The Simple Way was born. Over the past 18 years, we’ve seen that little intentional community turn into a village.
From the beginning it has been an adventure. As we cleared out all the debris and clutter from the old house, we began to joke about what we’d do with the stash of gold or cash when we found it. But we never found the gold (weâ€™re still looking). However, after a few days of cleaning, I was dusting on the top shelf of a closet when I hit something. As we looked closer we discovered â€“ it was a grenade. A real grenade. For some reason, the former owner, an old World War II vet, thought a grenade made for a good souvenir from the war. A calm call to the local police turned into a frenzied rush to pretty much every security agency in Philly, ending with a visit from the bomb squadâ€¦ and the entire neighborhood being put on lockdown and alert.
Thatâ€™s how we met everybody on the block 18 years ago. Some of our neighbors still remember that day (itâ€™s hard to forget) when the bomb squad and all sorts of media showed. They joke about how they wondered what the new neighbors were up to.
But now they know what we are up to because today The Simple Way is not just an intentional community in the house on the corner it is a village and a movement. What started as six of us with a house of hospitality where homeless folks knew they could find a warm meal and a friend, is now a village.
We’ve fixed up abandoned houses. We’ve painted murals. Planted gardens. Weâ€™ve mourned deaths and celebrated new babies. We’ve challenged unjust laws. Neighbors helping neighbors.
This year, we saw our first young people from the neighborhood graduate from Eastern University as Simple Way scholars. And nearly every month, we have some kind of wonderful celebration here in the village. What started as a dozen kids coming to the yellow door for back-to-school supplies has now turned into an epic back-to-school festival with over 700 kids and all sorts of fun.
But at the end of the day it is all about love, relationships, and Jesus. Mother Teresa is still right, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” What’s important is not how much we do, but how much love we put into doing it.
I’ll never forget one of my favorite days over these past 18 years. We had a long-time neighbor who had to move to Florida. As she told me about the move and all the memories we’d made here at The Simple Way, she began to cry. As tears rolled, I thought to myself, when neighbors begin to cry because they have to move from Kensington to Florida — it is a great day.
So we are thankful for every one of these 6570 days, even the hard ones. And we could not do it without you. We give thanks to God for the past 18 years and we trust God for another 18 years.
Love from the village here at The Simple Way!
– Shane Claiborne