A community is democratic only when the humblest and weakest person can enjoy the highest civil, economic, and social rights that the biggest and most powerful possess.
A. Philip Randolph
Sometimes those that want to help–actually hurt.
I am talking about those large institutions like corporations, governmental, academic and even professional ones like social service agencies. Just for the record, this is where I take out the mirror and look at myself. Pot, please meet kettle. At various times in my 20 plus year career I have belonged to each of those large entities I just named. And if I am being honest sometimes we have probably done harm where our intent was to help.
These institutions have resources and they can be amazing supporters and advocates, they just can not be in the drivers seat. They do not get to drive, hold the map or determine the road that will be utilized. The vision has to be driven by the people. True movements do not have CEOS or benefits. They happen when thousands of people discover their power and in doing so discover their possibilities. Movements take courage. It takes courage to discover your own way and own your destiny.
The American poet Audre Lorde said it best:
If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.
And sometime other’s vision of our self or our communities come from a historical place of lack- a place of dependency. They tell communities that they are inadequate, problematic, incompetent or broken, but of course they know what the community need. They know how to “fix” it, how to help. I believe that at their core they do want to help–and sometimes when you are bone and soul weary it feels GOOD to have someone tell you that they will help you, give you what you need. It is sometime very hard to ignore these strong, loud voices, and hear your own heartbeat. We are all called to find our own way– no one walks your path for you.
The gifts of neighbors. The voice of strength. The path of abundance.
Strong local communities are vital and they are not created in a vacuum. They come from the freedom and opportunity to create vision and the power to make that vision a reality. You noticed I said POWER and not RESOURCES. In every local community we have the power to build a strong economic community. Every neighborhood in the world has some locally started enterprise- car mechanics, beauty shop, seamstress– so many basements, dining rooms, kitchens and garages offer great prices and impeccable work. As neighbors we have the power to utilize these services, choose their power to support these businesses over large institutions. When neighbors support neighbors they are really allowing them to share their gifts and talents.
When communities walk the path of abundance they join all of their gifts. When they grow food together and feed another. When they raise each other’s children together and invest in their future leaving none behind. When they care for all of the elders and value the wisdom they share. May we all have the opportunity to use our gifts to contribute to the healing of the world.
We all have the right to live in a safe and secure place. Freedom is our divine right. We all should be free to move beyond past limitations and become all that we were created to be. This can not happen if communities give others the power to define them. The gifts of community are endless. They need to be magnified and celebrated. They should be cherished and every community should be allowed to define themselves.