Friday, October 15, 2010

Creating courage

Fear paralyzes people and communities. 

Far too often fear drives people toward a default position of "group think" or, worse, inaction, isolation and debilitating pessimism.  It's not hard to think of many examples of this social dynamic at work today in our society/nation.  Just listen to the political ads from both sides and you'll pick up on the fear tactics.

But, thankfully, there are other options within our reach. 

Challenging situations and times drive imagination. 

Difficulty fuels creativity. 

To be more accurate I guess I should say tough times and circumstances may inspire imagination and creativity if courage rises to the surface.  Finding, inspiring, celebrating and deepening courage in individuals and communities is likely the most important aspect of any transformative effort in tough neighborhoods. 

Some choose to call this essential ingredient "faith" or "hope."  I think "courage" is the best word. 

Courage combines faith, hope, optimism and boldness with a gritty, tenacity that allows folks to persist even in grave situations. 

Genuine courage is not some wispy, emotional aspiration.  Authentic courage finds a way to execute, no matter how tough the circumstances or the situation.  Even in the face of repeated failure, setbacks and mounting opposition, courage keeps at the struggle.  Courage does not surrender. 

When groups of people come together with courage, things change.  At times the movement feels absolutely glacial, but the change still comes. 

Courage has a way of inspiring imagination right in the midst of the struggle for improvement, change and justice.  Imagination routinely pushes the edges and contributes to changing the rules of a community for the better. 

Courage is fundamentally about the motives of the actors on a community stage.  Institutions controlled by and controlling the status quo often insist with great pride on reviewing "outcomes" of a project or an effort.   While important, such a limited approach doesn't allow for the full affect of the courageous work to be realized, evaluated or understood.  Show me a person motivated by courage with a vision for community engagement and improvement and I'll show you a person who will not quit no matter what the difficulty.  They also usually find a way to satisfy the reporting requirements of various observers who remain risk averse in positions of much greater safety. 

Leaders seeking to inspire courage in their communities ask two questions again and again. 

First, "What do you lose sleep over?" 

And second, "What are you willing to do about it?"  

We find ourselves in the midst of those important questions with our friends and neighbors more and more frequently these days. 

I've about decided that our entire work here is all about "creating courage" by discovering the people who want in the fight for a better city. 

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