Spontaneity is not something that I am known for. Unless, of course, there is a soccer game in question. Much of my spare time in these past few years has been spent watching my boys play soccer or watching my favorite English Premiership team on Fox Soccer Channel. When my boys and I heard that a professional soccer team was coming to Philadelphia in 2010, we were pretty excited. At the last minute on Saturday, Ken realized that the Philadelphia Union was playing a home game and suggested that we go. After acquiring overpriced tickets (I guess that is what normally happens if you call in on game day), we hopped in the car and took off for Chester.
That’s right, the Union’s beautiful new stadium is located at the foot of the Commodore Barry Bridge in Chester, PA. Having driven past this very site on occasions in the past and with directions from the Union website in hand, I was pretty confident that I knew where I was going. How quickly confidence turned to concern as I realized that the exit numbers on Interstate 95 were quickly going down, not up as I had assumed they would as we looked for exit 9A. Surely things would improve as I took the “obvious” exit for the Commodore Barry Bridge and yet somehow we quickly passed the stadium and were in New Jersey before I could figure out what had happened.
At this point, I did what all lost married men would do, I called my wife on the speaker phone (everything has to be hands free in NJ of course) and proceeded to panic. As she frantically looked for directions, I found Rt 130 and got off looking for a way to turn around. For a moment thought that I would end up in “far” south Jersey as the road appeared to be a highway with no place to turn around. Fortunately it was at this point that Deb realized my error and that exit 9A was actually north of Rt 476 (the Blue Rt.) and not south (near the stadium as I had assumed).
Once we found the exit and made our way toward the stadium, we realized why the stadium authorities had brought us this direction as we were on what appeared to be the only main road through Chester that did not go right through the heart of the ghetto. Chester is one of the most impoverished cities in America and even the way that we went took us past some of the bleakest sites in urban America in 2010. Interestingly, this new stadium is part of what the city hopes will help turn things around with new jobs and revenue in the city. Unfortunately, the soccer stadium is not the only thing that the city is counting on for revenue as we drove past the new Harrah’s Casino and a huge State Correctional Facility.
I could not help but wonder what the people of Chester must think when they look at these three options – a soccer stadium with tickets priced so high that many could not ever afford to see a game, a casino ready to take whatever small amount of money they had and a prison ready to incarcerate those who do not obey the law. The words hopelessness came to mind as we pulled into the parking lot near the stadium. As I woke up this morning, I turned on the news to hear that three people had been killed in Chester overnight.
And yet, I serve a risen savior who came to calm the hearts of fear of those of us who are lost whether on a highway or in real life. How is it that I can so quickly panic when things do not go my way though I have so many resources at my finger tips. Even in circumstances that I cannot resolve with the visible resources that I have been given, I have a heavenly father who owns all the resources that I will ever need. This is the same hope that the people of Chester have, even though it may seem very different from where they live. My challenge now is not to succumb to the same type of hopelessness that pervades a place like Chester by assuming that there is nothing that I can do to make a difference in their lives. Too often people like myself have made that assumption leaving the owners of casinos and soccer stadiums to be the providers of hope that only Jesus can ultimately provide.