What can Williamsport residents do to help improve their community?
Spencer Sweeting said it's a pretty simple message: Help your neighbor.
Sweeting, pastor of Williamsport's City Alliance Church and the keynote speaker at Lycoming College's ninth annual Black History Month Dinner Saturday night at the college, challenged the audience to make a difference here in the city.
Sweeting briefly mentioned the accomplishments of his great-great-great grandfather Daniel Hughes, who as a conductor on the Underground Railroad helped runaway slaves escape to freedom.
When people step forward to perform what he called acts of "dangerous unselfishness" they can help transform a community.
The problem is: "We are just not wired to be unselfish," he said.
The American Dream, Sweeting said, carries a positive message of moving ahead in life and bettering oneself.
"The American Dream says 'get yours,' " he said.
But what often is forgotten is how one also can help others.
Sweeting said his church members have reached out to Stevens Elementary School, where many of the students are from families living below the poverty line.
"We started a reading program after school," he said. "We have about nine volunteers. If they (students) can read a little better, they can flourish."
To further help his community, Sweeting said he decided to run for the Williamsport Area School Board. He ended up winning a board seat after doing a Facebook campaign.
Sweeting, the nephew of the late Mamie Sweeting Diggs, a local historian, said it's evident that most people want to make some kind of a difference.
The question is how.
"Our city needs people who will be dangerously unselfish," he said.
The city faces many problems that hold people back, according to Sweeting.
Gazing out at the audience of some 100 people, he said he could see many people who could use their skills, their gifts to help their community.
If everyone became good neighbors, many of the city's problems could be solved.
It's part of taking ownership of a community and leading by compassionate hearts.
Olivia Coleman and Qiana Hill, Lycoming College Class of 2015, gave spoken word presentations.
A jazz trio comprised of Lycoming students Tony Rombola, Adam Rabidoux and Austin Sungenis provided the evening's entertainment.
Dr. Phil Sprunger, provost and dean of the college, offered welcoming remarks.