ANOTHER WEST PHILLY CHRISTMAS POSTCARD FROM 2010
As I was driving into work this morning I was listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Greatest Hits Album when Run Through the Jungle came on. A light bulb went off over my head. The 30 Blocks of Squalor has a theme song. It was written in 1970 by John Fogerty and was likely referring to the jungles of Vietnam. The song was used in that great scene in Forrest Gump when Forrest keeps rescuing his wounded comrades. Today, the 30 Blocks of Squalor are just as dangerous as the jungles of Vietnam. A little napalm would improve the neighborhood.
It is that time of year again. The Dean’s office adopts a poor family from the West Philadelphia 30 Blocks of Squalor for Christmas. The staff gives money,clothes, essentials and presents to this family. I detailed this effort in a post last year. The Dean’s office administrative assistants had no way to transport the 8 bags of stuff to the family, so they asked me if I could drive them over in my CRV. I gulped and said yes.
Myself and two tiny little women got in my CRV with 8 bags of goodies and drove to 50th and Sure Death St. I parked behind a $60,000 Mercedes. The only three white people who had been on that block in 3 years got out of the car and began to search for the lucky family. We identified the correct tenement and proceeded to lug the gifts. There was no elevator and the apartment was on the 5th floor. We had so much stuff, it would take two trips to complete our task. Two chances for assualt with a deadly weapon.
There is no feeling like being three white people on a block that is 100% black carrying hundreds of dollars worth of stuff in bags. We knocked on the door and heard commotion inside. But the door didn’t open. We knocked again. The door knob began to shake and three minutes later the door opened. It seems that they need a knife to open their door because the lock was broken. Lucky the place was a 5 alarm fire waiting to happen. The occupiers of this hovel were an 18 year old girl, two three year old kids, a 12 year old kid, one small TV on a crate, no furniture, baseboard heat that didn’t appear to be working, and dirt. This was truly squalor.
The occupants were not very talkative and didn’t appear thankful for the stuff we brought them. It was a weird scene, man. We made some small talk and departed as quickly as humanly possible. I was left empty by the whole experience. There was no feeling of having done something good for these people. Their lives will still be the same.
Giving stuff to people does not make them happy, better off, or self sufficient. There are two things missing from the 30 Blocks of Squalor. Fathers who take responsibility for their actions and the children they father. A desire for improvement through education. They go hand in hand. Without a functioning family unit, there is no way the children can get the support to value education and use it as a stepping stone out of Squalor. The black men of this neighborhood are responsible for the squalor. The white man didn’t do this to them. Society is not to blame. Personal responsibility by the black men is the only way forward for these people. There appears to be no effort in this direction. The shiftless, lazy men along the 30 Blocks of Squalor collect their welfare, father children and take no responsibility.
One huge benefit of buying a Honda Insight. There is no way I can fit 8 packages of gifts into it. I’m so sad.
Oh I almost forgot. As I pulled away from the tenement in my CRV like Santa Claus
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”