Jeff Peterson CVV 3
It is a testament to CVV that twenty years after leaving 1732 Pearl St, what I experienced and learned continues to shape the decisions I make for myself, my family and my community. Sometimes these are small, daily decisions like when I make a point of taking a route in my home of Portland, Maine that leads me down the street where many of my homeless neighbors live. I live a life of privilege. Heading down Preble Street requires that, at least for a moment, I see the face of someone struggling with food insecurity, addiction or mental illness. CVV reminds me that I must look into these faces. Sometimes my trips past Preble Street remind me that my life of material comfort also insulates me from the joys of community as I watch these neighbors laugh and sing together, eat together, and support one another, while I, alone in my car, head home, pull into my driveway, and nod to my neighbor if I see them at all.
CVV also continues to shape larger decisions in my life. I suspect that I am part of a relatively small group of CVVers that is not Catholic and never was Catholic. I was raised in a Pentecostal Christian home and now am a practicing Quaker. Quakers believe that there is “that of God within everyone” and that “the Light” can be found in everyone and in all of creation. For Quakers, truth is ever unfolding as we listen to “that of God” within, in the lives of others, in artistic creation and in the natural world. This is a spirituality that flows from what I experienced at CVV.
My daughters attend a Quaker school here in Portland, and for several years I served on the board of the school. During my time on the board, the school was faced with needing to move from it’s lovely island location just off the Maine coast. The board was tasked with finding a new home for the school. During the process of relocating, I found myself feeling very passionately that the school move into the city of Portland. Maine is a very white state, and the only place of any real ethnic diversity are in its downtowns. A move like this would have meant that the children would have spent much less time in the outdoors, but my experiences at CVV taught the absolute need, as followers of Christ, to be among –physically among – the poor. Being part of a private school was already an exclusive experience and, I worried, that moving even further would increase that separation. For many important reasons, the school is now not in the city, and instead on 25 beautiful wooded acres. But I remember feeling a tightness in my chest and a lump in my throat as we made that decision. I believe that sensation was God within, reminding me of the testimony of the poor that I heard while at CVV.