In a previous post, A Way Forward, I spoke about the need for the crowd to see the “us” and not the “them” in the debates, crises and politics surrounding us. It was theoretical at the time, with little tangible actions we could take. It was a seed that required water and months of germination to take sprout. Now, as it bursts forth from the ground and as excited as I am to see the green shoots among brown dirt, the little sproutling seems powerless against the darkened skies above it.
The issues and challenges we face as a nation are real, shared and unavoidable. To blindly choose a side is tantamount to choosing violence as the only viable course of action. To remain silent, however, as a white American male in the United States, firmly places me in a camp where I cannot reside. But unlike Donald Trump, who could have with one pronouncement brought some sanity to a chaotic situation, I have no such platform.
It is not choosing a side, however, to denounce any human being who chooses to use a car as a weapon. But denouncement of an action, no matter how repugnant, miles from my comfortable living room, really does little to change my own heart. I can easily begin rationalizing that the police should have stepped in between two groups of “hate” as if the arguments have equal merit and the power distribution is equal as well.
I feel almost inadequate against such a backdrop to continue laying out my small vision of building community, but make no mistake: Hearts must be transformed to bring about change, and those hearts require personal, one-on-one attention. With national and global crises looming large, we must focus on our current sphere of influence. So we have chosen three goals, focused on limited geography, and laid out our initial projects:
(Prioritized to the City of Oviedo, Seminole County, Central Florida)
In a nutshell, we are looking to build bridges between government, business and churches to serve the community (Goal One). To do that, we are looking to work with specific disenfranchised groups within Oviedo and Seminole County (Goal Two).
We started at the Longwood Rehabilitation and Health facility. We hold prayer services on the first, third and fifth Sundays (when applicable) of every month. We also spend three hours a week on Tuesdays, making personal visits.
Next we began to investigate the possibility of a Community Garden behind St. Alban’s Church in Oviedo. My daughter, Cate Kandle, and her compatriot, Adam Musacchio, spent the better part of the last eight months hand-tilling and planting a twenty-five by twenty-five foot plot of land on the site with all of the produce donated to Hope Helps in Oviedo. Father Ralph of St Alban’s authorized continuation of the work as my daughter prepares to leave Florida for Unity, Maine where she will study sustainable agriculture.
Finally, we have begun discussions with the City of Oviedo to determine areas where we could aid in building relational bridges to strengthen the community. Though the conversations are in the embryonic stages, there is concrete reason to believe that we will be able to establish and address specific needs of the community.
Why am I telling you all of this? If you are tired of asking how you can help, or how you can make a difference as our national life seems to be unraveling at an increasing pace, try committing to a local opportunity where you can physically see the changes that you are making.
Sit with us as we visit the elderly, pray and socialize. This ministry of presence provides benefit to the patient, to the staff of the facility and to the families of the patients.
Helps us create a building block for future work in the community as we plan, plant and produce fresh vegetables in the Community Garden. This could eventually fuel community interaction between the generations and educational opportunities. We have discussed interaction with the African Refugee community in Orlando as well as youth programs to promote the agricultural history of the City of Oviedo and sustainability.
Our final goal of education must remain unfulfilled until we have gathered as a fledgling community, desiring to learn about a new way. This goal will best be determined by the group that engages in the local needs now to help formulate the What Now?
And so, I offer my mustard seed. Will you join me in watering it, protecting it from the elements and watching it grow? With the smallest of actions, maybe one day we can revel together as birds perch in its branches.