I know, I know: You are reading this with the disappointment of Sunday’s game weighing heavy on you. This is not the joyful Monday morning we were waiting for. But when you have taken a beat, give yourself a chance to think of what the days preceding Super Bowl LVII Sunday felt like. How you felt, as a Philadelphian.
Anyone who spent time in and around Philly in 2023 will have witnessed the joy, the friendliness and good nature, the kindness. Even fair weather fans (guilty!) can appreciate the winning efforts on and off the field. The recitation of “Go Birds” during roll call at jury duty (and elementary schools, places of work …). The guy who slammed on the hood of a car that almost hit him and menaced “It’s a good thing the Eagles are in the Super Bowl” rather than something more threatening. The spontaneous singing. And shouting. And fist-bumping.
And, weaving through all of it was an emotion that we too often overlook here in our city: Hope.
If only we could capture that spirit in a Tastykake and feed it to every resident, every week, well past Super Bowl Sunday. What might we accomplish if we could bring the same spirit of togetherness to winning in our civic life that we do on the field? What if we went through our days feeling hopeful that things can get better — that what we do can make it so?
Here are a few ways we might do that:
Engage in the election.
I am not just suggesting you vote — which you should, and which is itself an act of hope. These few months leading up to the May 16, 2023 primary election are the most important for our city’s future. There’s a reason so many mayoral candidates are talking about running not for 2024, but for 2030 and beyond — the person we elect as our 100th mayor will determine the course of the city for close to a decade, as will the slate of City Councilmembers who will take office next year.
Want a real sign of hope? Just look at the candidates for Mayor. They are diverse, experienced, smart, passionate and competent. Get to know who they are, and you’ll see what a joy it can be to cast a ballot.
Clean up (a little). Green up (a little).
Here’s the remarkable thing about the celebrations on Broad Street after our winning teams do their thing: It makes a mess, yes, but it’s cleaned up pretty darn quick. That could be a metaphor for a good life — or, actually, just a literal way to live in this city that is way too often way too filthy.
Of course, pick up your own trash and put it outside properly. But also, support those who are trying to do more, like Morgan Berman’s Glitter app; advocate for more and better street cleaning in City Council; report and keep reporting illegal dumping to 311; and vote for people with a clear and practical plan for keeping our city clean.
While you’re at it, take a look at some simple ways to help the earth writ large from your little corner of it:
Look around you.
It was hard to miss the green lights shining down on us from Center City skyscrapers all month long. And the Eagles flags, decals, window signs, t-shirts were a happy replacement for the festive holiday decorations that come down every January.
But this city is a wonder at every time of the year. You probably know that we have more murals than any other city in America. Did you know that every mural has a story behind it? Usually, it’s a community effort to decide what will be painted on a wall in the neighborhood — which tells a story about that neighborhood, and by extension our city. Take a tour. (Be sure to check out The Citizen’s contribution to our murals, of the late great jurist A. Leon Higginbotham in West Philly.)
Even beyond the outer walls, every neighborhood has its gems — a precious window box, a brightly-colored cafe, a neighbor with a fabulous do, a school with a magnificent mosaic, a block captain with a bright spirit. Take a moment to appreciate what’s beautiful in your community, and remind each other.
Do the small things.
Stay with me here as I make a sports analogy: You know those moments on the field, when you see every player doing the one thing that taken together results in an incredible play? That is what it can be like when every citizen of a city does what they do best to make an incredible city.
A couple years ago, The Citizen offered a list of weekly actions we can all take to be better citizens. Here are a couple of my favorites:
- Practice your piano — or trumpet, or violin, or singing — by an open window. (This is literally happening on my street as I write this on an unseasonably warm day.)
- Start, stock or partake of a Little Free Library, or community fridge.
- Pay it forward, as they do In Napoli, Italy, by paying for your coffee and the person’s behind you in line.
- Plant flowers or trees.
- Thank your local service providers, City workers, electeds, teachers — anyone who’s doing a good job.
Stay weird — but be kind.
We are a city that celebrates voting with dancing mailboxes, that swims in flood waters on a highway, that greases our light poles — and climbs them anyway — that has strange furry mascots, that shows up for chicken-eaters, that seriously believes a tiny William Penn statue can sway a championship. It is delightful, and we should — and thankfully, do — own it.
We also have a great capacity for kindness and neighborliness, which we saw these last couple weeks — and which we have all witnessed beyond that.
I read something in a piece last year celebrating Gritty in the student newspaper at the University of Washington in St. Louis that I think sums up our spirit pretty well: “Nobody earns a reputation for being quiet. Listen to some of the Philly greats — Brian Dawkins, Chase Utley, Allen Iverson — talk about their time in the City of Brotherly Love, and they all say the same thing: Once you’ve earned it, once you’ve proven you can take a shot and get back up, you’ll have a city behind you.”
MORE WAYS TO LOVE PHILLY LIKE YOU LOVE THE EAGLESHeader photo: City of Philadelphia, via Facebook