I’ve been thinking recently about how it’s going to feel turning 20 this year, especially now and in Baltimore – a city standing at a crossroad with some big decisions to make after an unsettling spring. And, I’m also wondering what it’s going to be like on the West Side after having really come of age in the heart of East Baltimore.
I’ve been thinking about these things not because of a personal birthday, but because Caroline Center is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year.
These are trying times for Baltimore, and Caroline Center is responding in bold ways. For some time, we have been thinking about what it would take for Caroline Center to be able to offer its education and skills training program – so as to provide the opportunity for real and lasting change – to more women in Baltimore. We received an answer recently in the form of new space at Gibbons Commons/St. Agnes Hospital. So, as Caroline Center turns 20, we are answering a “call” – making an even stronger commitment to women and the entire City of Baltimore – by establishing a second location for our program where there is great need and also great potential.
At the time that I am writing this blog post, Baltimore is standing at a crossroad as we await the outcomes of the trials of the officers in the Freddie Gray case. Following the trials, no matter what, I think we will have to be prepared to be hopeful in the way that Ta-Nehisi Coates expressed in a recent interview with the “Philadelphia Inquirer” while speaking about his latest book, Between the World and Me –
It’s not the kind of hope that says, ‘Everything’s going to be alright.’ It’s more like, ‘Things might not be alright, but you still have to go out and do your job. You still have to find a way to live your life.’
As exciting as this next big step is for Caroline Center – to place its educational and career skills training program within easier reach of more women who deeply desire to prepare for and secure meaningful careers – the “hope” that we will embrace will be complex – a far cry from the simple optimism that says “Everything’s going to be alright.” Embracing this complex hope is why we are foregoing the predictable galas and setting aside traditional anniversary celebrations. Instead, we plan to celebrate this milestone, in solidarity with every woman we have been privileged to serve since 1996 and by recognizing that there are challenges and complexities in a shared hope that must honor the realities and experiences of all of Baltimore’s residents – so many of whom are courageously trying to live their lives when so many things are a lot less than “alright.”
There is a time to draw wisdom from all who are gathered at the table. There is a time to boldly step out and onto the margins. There is a time to do more, and to do it better and differently. There is a time, quite honestly, to be audacious. And, this is such a time – for Caroline Center and for Baltimore.
Everything that happens in the coming weeks will be life-changing for us all, whether we realize it or not. And, the work at hand – for the City of Baltimore and Caroline Center – will take heaping measures not only of hope, but also of love, courage, and daring. It will not be easy and it may not be perfect; but, if we are anywhere near being on the road to something better for everyone who lives in our city, we’re going to know it. We have more than just a great opportunity to help heal a hurting city so that people can move forward. We have a “call” to help create positive change, to invest in the development of human potential and talent, and to work together to make our community stronger through education and employment.
As Caroline Center prepares to welcome its first class of certified/geriatric nursing assistants to its new site in West Baltimore at Gibbons Commons/St. Agnes Hospital in January 2016, we will be thinking not only about hope, but also about love – in just the way that James Baldwin expressed it in his The Fire Next Time –
Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word ‘love’ here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace – not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.
Hope is complicated. Hope is necessary. Hope requires that we continue to face forward and “find a way to live life” – even when the world around us, the people around us, are not changing fast enough, if at all.
Love is bold. Love is needed. Love requires that we have the courage to “take off the masks” and to stay on the quest – no matter what.
In the weeks ahead, let’s work together to make our hope generous enough to wrap around everyone in Baltimore and to understand why our love is so urgent that it cannot wait.
Note: Additional inspiration for this blog post is taken from The Writings (#144 & #1) of Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger as well as from the “Directional Statement of the 23rd General Chapter of the School Sisters of Notre Dame (2012),” which is entitled Love Cannot Wait. The quotation from Blessed Theresa Gerhardinger is as follows: “United and content with little, we go out into the whole world because ‘Love cannot wait.’”