I’ve always had a love / hate relationship with the church. I always think they could do more…especially in the hood. My early interactions with religion is one of the reasons why I became an urban planner. I remember my grandmother taking me to a baptist church (I think) in Paterson, New Jersey. There was a lot of singing, crying, hollering Jesus and amens’. The small store front church with pealing paint, dated dusty carpet with equally dirty dusty blinds was packed with the believers. They clutched worn bibles with faded markers and dog-eared pages as they waved one hand in the air and looked to the ceiling for answers. Sometimes you could see the tears slowly falling from swollen cheeks. And eyes closed tightly shutting out everything but the words from the pastor. Based on where we lived and where this church was I knew life was hard for everyone. The pastor commanded his flock with ease because he spoke the words they needed to get by. Maybe I was too young, but I couldn’t never truly understand the messages. I also couldn’t understand why people were putting their last dollar in the collection plate as it most certainly made its way around each Sunday. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why the pastor drove a brand new Cadillac and we could barely find a ride to church. I didn’t know how his words were helping improve the hood where I lived. Couldn’t he do more? Or was peddling hope to the hopeless enough. Regardless, I didn’t see the return on investment…and at a young age I committed my life to improving my community and all of those people who pray for a different tomorrow. We can always do more.