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Commentary: Valentine's Day wishes for the city's marginalized

On Valentine's Day, I have a message to all those who are marginalized in Philadelphia.

The main dining hall of Broad Street Ministry.
The main dining hall of Broad Street Ministry.Read moreDAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer

On Valentine's Day, I have a message to all those who are marginalized in Philadelphia.

You are our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our friends, and yet so often you are treated as strangers, as the other. For that we apologize. We can do better; we must do better.

When you live in scarcity and suffer trauma, we all are diminished. When you are discriminated against, we are all laid low. And when you overcome adversity to regain stability and thrive, we are lifted high.

You are part of Philadelphia, a city founded on the belief that diversity is our strength and everyone, regardless of their faith or social background, deserves to be treated with dignity, respect, and tolerance. You belong here. You are our neighbors and even though we rarely, if ever, show it, we love you.

On this day, we should remember that St. Valentine was a humble cleric who was willing to be martyred for daring to profess his beliefs in a minority faith and for speaking truth to power on behalf of his largely poor and powerless followers. Today of all days, I hope we can spare a few minutes to consider those of you who are marginalized in our society, who seem to have fallen out of favor with the powers that be and whose voices struggle to be heard in the cacophony of partisanship and anger.

To the one out of four Philadelphians living with food insecurity, please know that it is not lost on us that so many are hungry in a society that idolizes wealth and consumption. Our consciences will not be clear until everyone has a seat at the table and those with the least are seated first. To the homeless who live with serious mental illness and the incarcerated who have a recent history of a mental-health condition, we acknowledge that we have failed to provide the supportive environments and necessary services you need to live productive and independent lives. Our hearts will never rest easily until the resources can be found to make you well and help you to rejoin society.

To the one in 10 of you addicted to alcohol or other drugs, and most urgently to the growing thousands of our neighbors falling prey to the opioid epidemic, we understand how hard it is to get clean and how critical it is that we invest in the substance abuse programs you need. We must not stand idly by when drug overdoses kill twice as many Philadelphians as gun violence and the futures of a generation are destroyed.

To the four out of 10 families that live with housing insecurity and the hundreds of thousands on the waiting list for affordable housing, we recognize how critical a decent home is to the health and well-being of families. To quote my hero, Sister Mary Scullion, "None of us are home, until all of us are home."

And finally, to the almost one out of three of you who adhere to a non-Christian faith, and most urgently to our more than 200,000 Muslim neighbors, please know that we see beauty and holiness in all faiths. Discrimination against one of us is discrimination against all of us.

To all of you in Philadelphia who feel marginalized, forgotten, and discarded, although we constantly fall short in our attempts to live up to the ideals of love and faithfulness that guided our city's founding, we will not give up trying.

We love you, each and every one of you who live with us in this City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.

Mike Dahl is the new executive director of Broad Street Ministry.