In today’s world we cannot wait for the future to come to us. Constructive action begins with us, in our own neighborhood, and it begins today. The small steps that form the basis for safe, dependable communities can begin any time today or tomorrow. And the small steps are the most important. If we seek a future we can respect and believe in, our first responsibility is to know our neighbors. This is the foundation of dependability.
If we are serious, we will gradually cultivate the relationships that get things done. Each of us is capable of dignity and civility and a concern for local problem-solving. We do not need to agree on everything—only about what needs to be accomplished.
Given the prevalent atmosphere of distrust and alienation, this will call for steadfast patience and determination. Some of your neighbors will welcome your initiative, while others may perceive you with uncertainty or outright suspicion.
There are many ways to reach through these barriers. Practical initiative is best served with compassion, generosity of spirit and an open attitude. But self-discipline must come first.
Where remnants of alienation persist, we must tread respectfully and make our goodwill clear. If someone asks to be left alone, we can assure them of our respect and readiness to respond in time of need. We can also maintain occasional contact without becoming an irritant. The simplest gestures can break the ice, even after long periods of time.
What is important is that we sustain dependable relationships with as many of our neighbors as possible. When crises loom, this can save lives. We cannot wait for what’s coming. We must prepare for it.
The character or attitudes of neighbors can become a liability when we least expect it. We cannot afford exposure to unknown perils, whether they are next door or down the street and around the corner.
While genuine relationships are the goal, we should not to rush into intimacy. Ask questions, listen well and be compassionate. Prove your dependability through attentiveness and responsibility—but tread carefully.
Avoid saying what does not need to be said. Some will press you about personal beliefs. We can respond deferentially while expressing a concern for good will and dependability. When differences become obvious, it will always be helpful to express a readiness to respond supportively in time of need.
In the beginning, you may find your initiative appreciated by only a few. But don’t be disheartened! Only small numbers are needed for discussion, planning and problem-solving.
With the nation in a devastating downward spiral of dishonesty, delusional behavior, and pervasive fear, true leadership has never been more needed. But, never has it been perceived with greater suspicion. So, tread lightly. Responding to clearly apparent needs with initiative and effective organizing will not be possible if we present ourselves as lightning rods.
Genuine leadership is exercised subtly and with humility in the world as it is today. I am not talking about modesty. This is a practical concern. Taking initiative does not, and should not, be associated with leadership in the usual sense.
Under such conditions as we face today, each of us is called to respond to needs as they present themselves. We have never imagined facing such extraordinary circumstances or being challenged in these ways.
It is understandable to doubt ones’ own skills and effectiveness. But there is work to be done. Needs must be met and conflicts averted.
As individual citizens, what does this mean? The challenge is personal. None of us can have assurance about resolving the great questions and complexities we now face. But necessities will confront us each day with real consequences.
We are not helpless. Words can be misunderstood and manipulated, but action speaks clearly. It is never be too early to initiate dialog and to foster collaboration.
You may watch for the next post on or about April 2.
Note to readers: A project description and several sample chapters from the forthcoming book are posted in draft at the top of the homepage