I believe in a sense of place.
I grew up in Philadelphia and never really knew another place. I vividly remember when the time came to choose a college, I was intent on leaving, believing I would make my way in the world somewhere else, somewhere better. I spent the summer after graduating high school making my peace with the only place I ever knew, preparing to move on and never turn back.
But a funny thing happened to me once I was away. I recognized that all that I was had been shaped by Philadelphia and that I owed everything I was to that place. Philadelphiaï¿½my placeï¿½had shaped my worldview and had become a part of me.
Walking along cobblestone streets in Center City, I could see where the history I learned in school was made. Growing up among row after row of humble homes in the northeast, I learned the oddly Philadelphia addytude that endows me with a combination of a chip on my shoulder and an inferiority complex. Spending too much time in Veterans Stadium and the Spectrum taught me that even when hopes are crushed, hope alone is reason enough to keep believing.
My sense of place is shaped by my understanding that the actions of a few revolutionaries can change the world; by my knowledge that, given a puncherï¿½s chance, one can overcome a rocky start to have a shot to become a champion; and by my certainty that no matter how close victory might appear (especially for my sports teams), defeat might be right around the corner.
But what was also part of my sense of place was the notion that Philadelphia was not the city I knew it should be and that, for too many, the place for which I had so much appreciation and affection was not a place of opportunity or a place of hope.
I knew then that I wanted, more than anything, to return home, to enjoy everything that is wonderful about Philadelphia, for which I owe a debt to those who came before me, and to help in the ongoing effort to fix everything that is not so wonderful so that others, including my own children, can enjoy an even better place.
Philadelphia is often a hard city to love, but for me it is always a hard city to leave. Now that I am able to travel more, I see other places and appreciate what makes them great, but my sense of place centers me and encourages me to live the oath taken by the citizens of ancient Athens. They declared, ï¿½We will transmit this city not only not less, but greater, better, and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.ï¿½ That sentiment guides me and urges me to do what I can to make this a better place. Maybe that will inspire a sense of place in others who will do the same.