What I Learned From Life in a “Row Home”

A good portion of my childhood was spent living in and around “row homes” in Northeast  Philadelphia. A defining characteristic of a “row home” is the fact that your home is literally in a row with others and you share a wall with the homes on either side. There are no front yards, just a small patio and a one way street. “Back yard”, well that term doesn’t even exist in the city, behind you is an alleyway.

example picture of row homes in Philadelphia
“Row Homes”

In a “row home” you learn to live with other people, and all of their differences. After all, you don’t have a choice. Your neighbors are always right there, whether you like it or not. Kids learn to play together in the streets and alleys. Even as a kid, you learn to deal with the challenges that come with living in such close proximity to others. For example, you hear a lot more of your neighbors’ conversations than you probably want to, and you quickly realize you can’t hide from your friends when you have a conflict.

Yet, while many of those experiences can be uncomfortable they become formative to your outlook on life and how you interact with others. I vividly remember my dad talking with me about what to do if someone approached me on the street. There were other conversations about if I got hit or jumped by other kids; how to walk down to the corner store to buy milk (on my own – as a six year old), and that I didn’t need to be afraid of people who are different than me. 

For example, there was a woman who lived up the street from us, and even as a young child I could tell that something was different. She always wore a fur coat (no matter the time of yea) and would walk past our house everyday to buy a loaf of bread, and a two liter of Pepsi. It is obvious now that she suffered from some sort of mental health issue. We stopped seeing her for a while, until one day the police were at her home. My parents explained that she had been “sick” and had not been able to pay her electric bill. The city turned her power off, and as a result, she froze to death in her home. My poor parents! No one plans to have a serious talk with their children about that type of thing. But even at the age of six, it helped me understand that there are people all around us that need our help, and we don’t need to be afraid of them. 

School is more similar to life in a “row home” than you might imagine. Teachers and students spend a lot of time in close proximity to each other each day. In fact, we spend more of our time awake during the school week with our teachers (and peers) than we do with our families. Naturally, there are going to be ups and downs every day. What makes LCS unique is that we can embrace both the ups and downs together as the family of Christ. Sometimes there is an expectation that since LCS is a Christian school there won’t be conflicts or disagreements here. But that just isn’t true.

Operating from a biblical worldview gives us the advantage of understanding that we all will fall short of our expectations. No school or church can design, regulate, or supervise away the effects of sin. At LCS we know that the only answer is to fully rely on the grace found in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ

We know that students aren’t always going to get along, frustrations will build, and emotions will spill over. As followers of Christ, we look at those experiences as opportunities. The reality is that students learn just as much from their “lows” as they do their “highs.” Part of the unwritten curriculum at LCS teaches students to view and respond to the “mess” of daily life in a manner consistent with the Word of God. That does not mean that every conflict or comment is resolved and forgotten right away. Instead, it equips us with the ability to see the reality of the Gospel in front of us each day: that “we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3: 23), and that without the undeserved gift of Salvation – provided through Christ – we would have no hope.

Mr. Cawood teaching Students Bible

Part of my responsibility as the Assistant Secondary Principal of the Middle School is to work alongside students to help them process what it means to treat others with dignity and respect. Today, a significant portion of our interactions with each other is through technology devices. As a result, the majority of our students’ face-to-face interactions are with other people at school. It is that much more important that we help our students learn – not only reading, writing, and arithmetic – but how to be people in a social world. It would be much easier to simply discipline students and move on. But to work with them on developing the skills and attitudes that Christ calls us to manifest, is far more challenging and time consuming. When we learn to embrace the challenges of living with other people as a part of our walk with the Lord we start to truly live out the idea of “educating students in the light of God’s Word.”