We are the solution!

In the midst of the terrorism that became the killing of South Carolina 9, I have been appalled at those who wring their hands going, "I don't know what to do." Really? After a few centuries, YOU don't know?  In the last few months, it seems that there is an escalation of all things that go bump into the night. The murder of a former school teacher who had fallen into drugs. The finding of a baby in a dumpster--dead. Terrible things. Then there was the man looking for an apartment and became frustrated because while he had the money, no one would rent to him because of a felony conviction. He has two boys who need him, but they were staying in a shelter for the time being. I gave him names of people and places that he could go, but he responded, "I've been there." He was running out of options and I had no others. Each of these incidents happened within a 24-hour period.

The truth is there is no escalation except in my awareness. More, I'm generally the fixer and it rankled that I could fix nothing. Later I spoke with my friend and mentor, Deloyd Parker, executive director of SHAPE Community Center. He told me. You did do something. You listened. Still, I thought it wasn't enough.

For 47 years, Deloyd has run an institution that supports our community. SHAPE has an after school program and a complete summer program. He gives space for our elder's wisdom circle where he feeds us (yes, I'm an elder) twice a week, a wonderful meal, fully vegetarian and "we" love it. More he takes young people on an annual freedom tour, where he brings the civil rights era into the minds and hearts of young minds lest they not know their heritage and forget the past.  In addition, he gives people second chances after they make big mistakes and allows them to do community service. There's a fresh vegetable market on Saturdays and much more (go to the website). With all that he does, including giving space to discussions, special events, he reminds me that sometimes all we can do is listen at the moment.

And, listening has a value. Don't ever forget that. Listening gives us an opportunity to understand and show compassion, but it also gives us information that helps us to find solutions.  Listening is an action, but it doesn't stop there. We must understand that in every circumstance mentioned above, the problems didn't happen overnight and these problems won't be an overnight fix. We know that our problems are first, systemic and and that these systems continue to widen the gap between groups of people; class, gender, race are just a few of those divides. There seems to be fewer and fewer opportunities to pull yourself up by the bootstraps because there's no boot and no strap. We continue to ask, "What can we do?" And that is the question that must be answered every day.

Here it is. We must get on with the MORE. More what? Someone recently wrote that it is not government's role to be compassionate, but to solve problems. Government is a resource run by people who benefit while deciding who should or should not benefit. They can't do that without compassion along with realistic responses. Compassion, however, is part of the foundation of the work for your fellow human being, no matter the color of his or her skin, his or her religion, or his or her background. Compassion is an action that helps you to listen and then respond to the individual each and every time.

We need to identify those who are doing the work on those issues in our community, defining community not by the circumstances of different groups of people, but addressing the needs of a community that includes all. That's the difficult issue and as I run this space of mine called Our House, I realize all are not equal in a community, causing a rift that is widening. How can we narrow those gaps? After all, it seems that you can't be everything to everybody. But, that's not the problem. I'm not trying to be everything to everybody. I'm working to bring my particular brand of gifts and talents to those problems that need them. And there are enough of us with gifts and talents to narrow the divide if only we would work together.

That is why this summer we created a Face It Friday, Move It Monday salon, a place where ideas can incubate and where we can face our problems and look for ways to solve them. On this last Friday, we talked about the recent issues of addiction, poverty, and homelessness, problems of individuals, but the greater problem of how we respond as a community. And we decided that there was a place and people already doing this work, primed and ready to do more if they had the resources of people and money. And this first foray into a Move It Monday, made me realize that my role as a writer and teacher, is to spread the word of our efforts, getting others (that's you) to listen and respond.

SHAPE needs volunteers and they need philanthropists to support the work that responds to many of the issues in our community. They need volunteers and people who see the value of human beings, including the drug addict, the desperate mothers and fathers who don't always make the right choices, children who need a place to go to over the summer, but whose parents are working minimum wage, and elders who still have much to offer being given that opportunity. And then there's you. My sister once wrote that she was in awe of the work that I do and realized that it was an easy thing to write a check so that I can continue to do what I do. I'm asking that we think of that when we consider the initiative of our Move It Monday, that we agree to help an organization that is doing the work. Go to SHAPE's website and give and if you're in Houston ... drop by and sign up for Saturday orientation to volunteer. And then you will be answering the question of what can be done because you will be doing it.



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