Friday, July 07, 2006

The Table

Trust me, it was an unusual table for Dallas.

Long, narrow, rectangular tables arranged into another much longer rectangle. But it wasn't the furniture or the arrangement that made it so unique.

The table was set for the regular meeting of Healthy Dallas, a broad-based community collaboration dedicated to seeing community health outcomes improve dramatically.

What made the table so exceptional were those seated around it.

Physicians, pastors and professors were there.

Business executives, leaders of large non-profits and public sector professionals were there.

But so were a large number of community folk--moms, grandmothers, dads, residents of public housing developments--people who don't earn much money but who are focused on crafting better lives for themselves and for their beloved community.

A powerful table.

A table that holds out hope because of its openness, diversity and, more importantly, because it places such a high value on both.

A table that rewards action, that invites debate and aims for movement.

A table open to everyone.

A table rich, very rich in social capital.

A table set for change, for finding just solutions.

A table suggesting a future.

It will be at tables like this one that decisions are made and commitments forged that can actually lead to change, to a new kind of movement toward justice, fairness and genuine, hopeful renewal.

This is a table extending those seated around it far beyond the traditional, expected, charitable notions of "helping the poor." This table is about attacking disparities. This is a table where the bread of new life if broken, shared and anticipated with eagersness and fierce resolve.

No games taking place around this table.

At this table people share power.

Everyone brings something to this special and unique table.

Every contribution is recognized, unpacked, discussed, honored, revised and celebrated for the good of everyone around the table and, even more importantly, for those they represent.

As I sat at the table, taking it all in mostly in silence, it occured to me that I was seated in the midst of a clear expression of the spirituality of the city.

As a minister who spent almost 25 years working with congregations, it seems to me that this table, and tables like it across cities like mine, may be bright expressions of a new, emerging civic, urban "congregation" of people set on bringing new life to distressed and broken communities.

You should have been there!

You would have been very welcome.

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R Debenport said...

Thanks for this vivid description. I am more hopeful after reading it. It actually sounds like there is a message, a mission that breaks across the normal boundaries of our lives. I am greatly encouraged.

Stoned-Campbell Disciple said...

Tables are almost magical. Or perhaps "mystical" is a better word. Tables are a "place" where the God of the Universe decides to sit with sinners. Tables are where millionares may actually sit next to a homeless woman.

Tables are are windows into the kingdom. May we have more of them.

Bobby Valentine