Shane Claiborne greeted me at the door of The Simple Way, the urban faith community he and his wife Katie are part of in North Philadelphia. Emerging from a bright pink housefront on a street littered with empty pop cans, bags of chips, and plastic bottles, Shane and I walked five blocks from the organization's headquarters on Allegheny to his private row home on Potter Street. Having worked alongside Mother Teresa in Calcutta, spent time as a part of peace committees in Iraq and Afghanistan, and been arrested for "disorderly conduct" for sleeping on benches with the homeless in a park, Shane told me about this new season of life in which he's growing grapevines, raising pet rabbits, and changing the world.
"It's okay to be scared—the world is a pretty scary place," Shane told me. "But love drives away fear so we can live with the courage that comes from our faith and from our community. When we live with courageous people, it makes us more courageous, and when we live with timid people, it makes us more timid."
As we walked around the Potter Street Triangle, a neighborhood where drug use and crime are daily realities, I took in the sights, smells, and impressions of the inner city—tiny yards, narrow streets, minimal space between buildings. The Simple Way has planted community gardens and a greenhouse in between abandoned houses it's renovating and turning over to become affordable housing units on the block. These gardens are symbols of hope in an urban landscape.1