“I like this place,” Jimmy M. said as we drove back to Daystar on the uneven, craggy pavement from Little Amps. “I feel like it’s a place I can grow, plant some roots, and change my life. It’s different from Bloomsburg.”
“How so?” I asked.
“Something about that place. It’s where I learned to shoot heroin. It’s where my life began to unravel. Just driving up there; the roads themselves. They give me chills. They aren’t good memories. The place just affects me so negatively. I hate it,” Jimmy M. said.
Jimmy and I had this conversation about three weeks ago, and it’s sticking with me for some reason. It’s probably because I know exactly what he’s talking about. When I was in college, I’d be gone for months at a time and then return home. The 16 hour drive began to feel familiar. The curves of the PA Turnpike are written into my memory like the lines in my hands. The four tunnels that usher me into south central Pennsylvania are like enclosed hands, guiding me home. And as I get off the Gettysburg Pike exit, my last exit, the lights of the town shine and remind me where I am from. Where I was shaped. The city itself has become who I am. I am home, and, for me, it’s a great feeling.
Why am I telling you all this nostalgic drudgery? Because I know you have these same feelings about the place you grew up. Good or bad. You have them. And it’s important for us to take note.
Jimmy M.’s comments are important for us to remember because the spaces and places we inhabit both shape us and are shaped by us. We come to reflect them in the same way they reflect us. We are created by the spaces and shapers of the places we find ourselves.
Everyday this is our responsibility. I am reminded, in some ways, of Jesus’ commands to his disciples before he ascends to heaven. He tells them that he goes to prepare a place for them and he charges them to stay and create the spaces they inhabit until he returns.
So, the question is this: What is shaping you and what are you shaping? Jimmy M. shaped Bloomsburg into a place where it was a trigger; a return to a life of discord and dissonance. We at M28 see this happen all the time. It’s why one of the main mantras of AA is “change your people, places, and things.” Those things need to be changed so that you can heal, grow, and create a new space where you can flourish.
This is hard work; but it’s necessary work. We all inhabit spaces and places that we are shaping, whether we realize it or not. Your job, family, and community are all being shaped by your activity. What are you shaping it into? What are you doing with it? Are you creating a space for growth, vitality, and grace?
What does this look like for you? For us at M28, we are creating a place where men and women in addiction and poverty can find community, stability, love, grace, and inclusion. We are creating a place where they can climb out of the spaces they created for themselves.
We often neglect this part of our spirituality. We want it to be about the internal work we do through prayer and devotions. But we must break out of this way of thinking and embody our spirituality. We must realize that we, as people, are mediators of grace in tangible, real ways to a world in desperate need of it. And along the way, as we create these spaces filled with joy, love, and hope. The world we shape around us can be like my long trek home from college: full of twist and turns, but ultimately a place called home, where I am shaped and formed into the person I was meant to be.