I’ve witnessed the inner workings of a principle, a truth now for over a decade.
Neighborhoods get better, not when the individuals who live there get better personally, but when these individuals get together.
Interestingly, once folks get connected, individual progress breaks out all around.
We’ve been so brainwashed by marketing and an out-of-control consumer culture that we have lost our appreciation for the power and the importance of the group and its collective action.
Mark it down: change happens, reform sets in, progress ramps up when people meet up.
Frankly, this is why so many faith-based initiatives don’t really produce neighborhood change in a sustainable, measurable manner. If our only or even primary focus is on the individual in isolation from others, then predictably community lift will remain minimal. And, progress with individuals will be half-baked and short-lived.
Inner city change will not occur without collective, organized action. It’s just a fact.
The fact that a city’s police department short changes crime-infested, poorer central city areas when it comes to patrols, community policing and focused attention, as compared to the attention more affluent areas receive, comes as no surprise to the people who live there. Improvement in community policing will come only as the citizens of such communities come together to call for, to demand and in some cases to force change in police policy and priorities. This is just how things work.
In the process individuals get stronger. Leaders emerge and things change.
The same could be said for code enforcement, public education, health care, parks and recreation, transportation and environmental concerns.
Change comes as people unite. Poverty need not be a barrier to the renewal of sidewalk, front yard fellowship!
In many cases religion doesn’t really help. Systems of faith and practice focused solely on individual renewal and defined exclusively by individualistic piety may keep people’s noses pressed into the Bible, but will have negligible affect in impoverished and troubled neighborhoods.
Indeed, change may be informed by spiritual teachings and values and it may be sustained by prayer and devotion, but it will come only as community coalesces around issues.
Urban change calls me to be committed to you, your interests and our connection, no matter what our individual differences.
Community development translates into community power and genuine community transformation.
Until people get together nothing much will come together in broken neighborhoods.