Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Change starts by shaking the whole tree

 I get the Renewal News from the Shreveport-Bossier City Community Renewal project, and the latest issue came this week.  I always enjoy Mack McCarter's brief essay at the end of the newsletter.
I'd like to share some of the thoughts from his essay (McCarter, M. (2013). Change starts by shaking whole tree. Renewal News, 18(2). Shreveport, LA: Community Renewal International):
[Samuel] Johnson's older cousin, Cornelius, told his teenage cousin, 'Samuel, most intelligent people study the leaves and the limbs of a tree all of their lives, but you grasp the trunk!  And then you can shake all of the leaves and all of the limbs at once.' I have been pondering those words because if we ever needed trunk-grabbing, we need it now.
One wag said it, 'We are like a convention of ants arguing over Robert's Rules of Order, and never noticing that we are on the skin of some lumbering hippopotamus about to immerse himself in the river to the utter disaster of our colony.'
Let us first boil all of the complexity out of this brew of everyday living so that we can get to the basics of human existence...what will be left are only two fundamental challenges facing the entire span of life and every single human being...First, we must sustain a healthy planet.  And second, we must grow a human society that has learned to care for one another based on our common humanness.
We have many problems, but only two fundamental challenges.  We must keep the earth healthy and we must grow a human race capable of inhabiting this earthly village.  That's the trunk.  Now how do we grab it?
I am not versed in the science of our environment.  All I know is that there is no Planet 'B.'  We do not have an escape if our earth is not sustained.  I am not arguing the 'how' because, frankly, I have no idea.  I am just saying whatever it takes to solve this first challenge, then I'm in and I know that you are too.  Because if we do not solve this one, then there is no use to solving the second challenge.  We will not be here.
So how do we grow a renewed society capable of ever renewing life and lives together?  Simply put we must get a comprehensive process and model of care that includes every human being.  Put love into practice for whole cities and whole countries...And now here is the amazing truth.  Unless we solve the second challenge of life together then we cannot possibly solve the first challenge of our good earth.
I read these words last night after a conversation with a colleague and friend who is on leave at the moment, writing a book.  We were talking out the challenges we face: our own personal challenges, those of higher education, and those of our profession.  On the way back into the house, I stopped to snap the pictures of the cats lounging on J's vintage Nissan 300ZX--one of their favorite napping spots.

I was thinking about the simplicity of things, and how we tend to make it so complicated.  Then, I read the above words, about shaking the whole tree.  Sometimes Mack sounds contradictory, sometimes he sounds too simple.  Ever since I met him over ten years ago, and heard him talk about the simplicity of how to grow this village of humankind who care for each other and our planet, I have seen evidence of his vision played out over and over.  It's hard...it's complex...but at the same time, it is very simple.
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:18)
The statistics of the organization speak to the opportunity to actually implement such a model:

  • 50% drop in major crime in target neighborhoods
  • 51,237 members of the We Care Team
  • 32,522 volunteer hours given in 2012
  • 3,000 Shreveport-Bossier City youth helped through Friendship House program
  • 1,825 volunteers in 2012
These statistics are just some of the ones for Shreveport-Bossier City, but there are projects in other cities and countries.  The numbers speak to the people who have agreed with this concept of growing a community renewed in caring.  If you grasp the center, the core, then you can have an effect on the whole system.  The only thing one needs to do is to grab it and start shaking.

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