We’re at the Philadelphia Art Museum. It’s the site of the steps where Rocky Balboa finishes his training montage and raises his fists in victory.
We sit at the top of the stairs, right around 10 PM. I look out and see a giant statue of George Washington, the street leading out into the rest of Philadelphia.
It’s a cool night, but the company makes it all worthwhile. Three guys looking out into the city. Couldn’t be happier.
With everything, there is clarity.
“Welcome to the suite,” Anders says, smiling.
You step inside, and you are at once in the family room, the living room, the dining room and the bedroom. The kitchen’s two steps to the left, and the bathroom two steps beyond the kitchen.
The necessary books, the ones dog-eared and worn ‘round the spine, occupy the nightstand. A few drawings and a picture of the family on the wall beside the bed.
It’s not everything you want, but it’s everything you need.
We’re up at 6:15 AM. Shower, brush the teeth, and out on the streets by 7.
We’re at Good Karma Café, 22nd and Pine. We’re out with our journals and Bibles, reading and soaking in the Good News. This is the way the morning begins; hearts and minds laid bare, comforted by the cup of coffee to my immediate right.
Ricky looks across the street and sees the doorman for an auto shop; elderly, shuffling along, wearing the standard-blue mechanic uniform. Ricky waves. The doorman waves back, then returns to work.
I’ve been told repeatedly of Philadelphia’s small-town aspect. Everyone knows each other, everyone sees each on the street and knows what they do.
It’s community, whether you like it or not.
With the Neighborhood Film Company, it’s more like “love.”
NFCo mentors and employs individuals recovering from homelessness, mental-illness, or addictions through the process of filmmaking. Anders and Ricky, two APU-friends, two friends I worked on films with, crazy student short films, started NFCo.
They’re doing Work with a capital “W.” Not every day is pretty. But every day is different. God’s work, for sure.
There’s one guy, they tell me, who’ll rage and shout and spit in their face, who’ll steal their clothes and hassle ‘em for all they’re worth.
Their nickname for him is “Teacher of Love.”
No matter how much frustration they feel, it’s the face of God looking back at them, the Teacher of Love staring them in the eyes.
Anders is away for a moment. Ricky starts without much prompt.
“Doing the work we do…it gives you perspective. With Elliot (NFCo’s pilot employee), there’s so much Negative around here, it’s hard to rise above it all. There’s something at every turn, trying to tear you down.”
At this point, Anders is back at the table.
“And so we do what we do to remain a part of each other’s lives. The work we do lets us be together. It’s in our motto; here to be together.”
Ricky. “You belong to something now.”