|Leading the Saturday morning |
Over the course of these several days, we listened to each other's stories of pain, prejudice, discrimination, challenge, hope and triumph. Gang violence, heart-rending testimony of difficulties caused by our current immigration laws, homes lost to foreclosure, poverty, profiling, incarceration without rehabilitation, and unresponsive political leadership were at the heart of these discussions among us. We were building bridges with one another at every turn. Our conversations transcended any differences in culture, race, faith, orientation and background to the point where the strength of our diversity enriched us and led us to empathy. Biblical teachings such as "love your neighbor as yourself" and "we are all created in the divine image" came alive every day, every hour, every minute. We identified where society might have us "reside" in a hierarchy of socioeconomic status, but we broke that down to the point of realizing that we need to listen to our hearts and minds - and the best of our religious teachings - telling us of our intrinsic equality.
|Ryan Coogler, director of "Fruitvale Station,"|
speaks about his poignant film
|A spontaneous "partial" group photo on Tuesday, July 30|
What I haven't said are the words "faith-based community organizing," which is the foundation of the work of PICO leaders. Like the traveler in the story, we try to extinguish the fires of injustice that we see in our communities. We join together to help people tell their stories of a need for change, and then work with those officials and legislators who can develop and implement new policies that will improve the lives of people in our communities. Even more than that, we try to infuse the values of our spiritual heritage into our communities in a way that can extend a helping hand to everyone, At a recent local meeting in Las Cruces, I referred to our leaders as a "community of prophets." I would apply that to my fellow participants in PICO National Leadership Training, and to many others who would apply their particular faith teachings for the benefit of an entire community or the family of humanity.
"How good and how pleasant it is when people dwell together in unity" - so we read in Psalm 133. I have faith that lessons I learned in Los Altos will enable me and my colleagues to engender a unity of purpose even across disagreements or differences.
One of the readings from MISHKAN T'FILAH that we shared on Sabbath morning epitomizes our human condition and the work of community organizing.
"We oughtn't pray for what we've never known, and humanity has never known:
unbroken peace, unmixed blessing.
Better to pray for pity, for indignation, discontent,
The will to see and touch,
The power to do good and make new."
I ask others to learn from this, and to realize that, even if we don't reach human perfection, we can still seek common cause to create a better world. That is the task that lies before us, one that we may not complete, but one we cannot neglect.