by Roger Bairstow, Executive Director, Jubilee
Choices are all around us in terms of who we want to be and in what type of world we wish to live. As I reflect on the past year in which COVID has had dominion over our interactions with others, I have a deep sense of gratitude for those who have been on the front lines of this epidemic. We owe a great deal of thanks to our first responders. They have leaned into the battle when many of us have removed ourselves from it. Regardless of race, creed, political party, or identity, they place compassion and selflessness above all else.
In this recognition, I became mindful, however, that my construct of what defines the ‘front lines’ was faulty. We all stand there at some point in our daily interactions with others. Whenever presented with an opportunity to ‘lean in’ rather than check out, we have the same choice. The question is do we choose to mimic these people who we laude?
Early in the month, Ruben Alvarado, who heads up Community Impact at Tierra Vida, received a call from the Leasing office asking him to come in. There was someone who had come to pay their HOA dues but was upset. He immediately had a good guess who it was, and when he arrived, he was right. Ruben noticed this resident’s body language and his clothing, which advertised his political leanings. Neither conveyed an openness for conversation or shared interests.
Ruben quickly realized he had a choice. Given COVID restrictions, he could easily make this a short visit; take the money and wish him well, he first thought. He knew, however, that there was an opportunity here. He could choose to engage with the resident. Ruben chose the latter option and changed the dynamics of the encounter that had both him and the resident leaving a bit better off than they began.
Another community member recently shared a similar situation. At the doctor’s office, he found his seat and took out his cell phone until called. He noticed another gentleman sitting next to him, however. Recognizing the choice placed before him, he put his cell phone in his pocket and initiated a conversation with the man.
Gareth Higgins and Brian McLaren write in The Seventh Story that there is a new story available to us. It speaks of a world where there is enough for us all, one of service to others, of reconciliation, respect and belonging. It has yet to come to full fruition because our minds are still held captive by the stories of domination and fear so endlessly driven into our consciousness by our leaders, media, and sometime even us. Yet, with each choice we make to recognize a situation as an opportunity to be neighborly, show generosity, offer compassion, and reach out to a stranger, we become the embodiment of this alternate story and move our community closer to the world we desire.