It may not be just a ‘city thing’ but growing up in New York City taught me a thing or two about public transportation. Some are obvious social cues – you know, don’t put your wallet in your back pocket, stand clear of the closing doors (please) – that sort of thing. Others are vestiges of a more primitive time, when any and everything could become a step in a dangerous direction. One thing my father, who’s lived in a city all his life, taught me growing up was more reminiscent of canine behavior than human. “Keep your head down but on a swivel. If you look someone directly in the eyes, they’ll take it as a challenge,” he’d tell me on the Brooklyn cross-bound local (The next stop is… a life lesson.) Whether he was right or not I never questioned his sage advice for fear of him not being wrong, and so I learned to keep my head down and grind forward. But somewhere in the “be aware of my surroundings” initiative I forgot to be aware of my surroundings in a literal sense.
When I relocated to Philadelphia in September 2006 I continued the well-worn habits of my NYC self. It wasn’t until recently that I began to really look and take in what I was seeing. There’s a SEPTA bus that takes you all the way down Chestnut from Wycombe to Penn’s Landing. I ride this bus often enough the route has rendered itself habitual to the extent I can signal my stop through muscle-memory alone. All those times I neglected to look outside the window of that bus as we passed 31st and Chestnut, I missed a most marvelous mural dedicated to a cause near to my heart.
The mural, ‘Finding the Light Within’, is meant to be a conversational piece about mental health awareness and suicide prevention. Created by lead artist James Burns, a member of the Mural Arts Program, the painting tells a story of all faces, races, and ages – not just of those who’ve lost a loved one to suicide, but of a community struggling to come together during times of crisis.
Whether we think we do or we don’t, we all know someone struggling with mental health issues. Oftentimes the stigma masks and blurs the hurt on a familiar face. Visit the mural. Contemplate it. Then go on the website and tell your story.
Finding the Light Within
120 S. 30th Street, Phila, PA 19104