The dust coming off the building as the hammers and chisels worked away at the painted cement on the brick surface made it difficult to look around much at all. However, the sweat coming off of my forehead and rolling into my eyes made it necessary to stop every once in a while and wipe. (At home later that afternoon the sand and grit that had stuck to my sweaty face gave me a free exfoliation as I washed it away. But it felt good. It felt really good.) During those little breaks, I could look around – even if it was a little blurry.
I looked around and I saw at least four generations represented in the work crew. Youth, young adults, middle age adults and even some into retirement were all working away together to help make a way for a local artist to turn a building into a canvas. There were people on ladders and people working at just one level. There was laughter and there were groans. There was the roar of a bucket truck motor and shouts as people tried to talk over it. There was and eerie silence when the motor stopped and I could hear car horns honking as people drove by, encouraging us in our work to make our city a little brighter.
I looked around and I saw history repeating itself and prepare to repeat itself yet again. The man who led the project said to me, “My dad and I planted those trees across the street thirty years ago. I still remember it like it was yesterday. Now we are getting ready to cut those trees down as part of this project so everything can be seen better; so the whole town looks a little brighter.” If I were standing on this same lot thirty years from now, I am sure I could look around and see one of a number of youth who were working that day tell someone, “I remember the day we worked to clean off this wall so this painting could be done. I still remember the dust like it was yesterday! But now it’s time for a new building so that the whole town can seem a little brighter. I’m just glad I can be a part of this new day.”
I looked around and I saw one of our youth offering a cold cup of water to a person standing on the street. She started to give him a piece of pizza from the lunch we shared before the work began and then thought better of it and gave him the whole box. He took it gladly and humbly and walked away to some of his friends “from the street” to share.
I drove by that lot on my way to the hospital later that day and stopped for just a minute. The work wasn’t complete, that was certain, but I looked around at what we had completed to see what I could see. I looked around again and saw…well, I saw that the Kingdom had come near.