My church celebrated Martin Luther King day with beautiful music, prayers and a sermon about how necessary it is for Christians to become activists. We stood and closed by singing “We Shall Overcome,” with the front half of the congregation facing the rear half of the congregation. Some of us started holding hands, and soon everyone was swaying and reaching out to people nearby. I started to blubber. I dearly want to overcome. The question on my mind today is what is it exactly that I want to overcome?
King said, “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered,” and this points to the spiritual problem that we are facing when individual rights trump community rights, when “Trumpism” raises an angry fist of egoic self-protection. I want to overcome that spiritual misunderstanding that we are separate from each other, and I believe that a campaign of nonviolent resistance such as King’s must be preceded by careful organization of an operational beloved community.
My greatest hope is that such a seed community of mutual understanding and collaboration would become so attractive that it would overwhelm any possible resistance by its sheer integrity, its alignment with the deepest need within all human beings, the need to contribute. What I have observed in my local community around Eugene, Oregon, is that micro-models, seeds, of the beloved community are already in place. The next step is to make them visible to each other and facilitate their collaboration.
I look forward to using the Power of 3 initiative of Kosmos Journal which leverages the self-organizing power of people, through groups of three, to come together around a shared concern and a simple practical goal in order to take one specific action in their community during a 12-session engagement.
Our small team of 3 will aim for personal felt ownership of a “compassionate action team” identity associated with central Lane County, Oregon, so that safe, prosperous and joyful communities result from the natural and effortless collaboration among team players. I have been inspired by Margaret Wheatley’s Kosmos article, Lifecycle of Emergence, which stated“when separate, local efforts can be seen as networks then strengthen as communities of practice, suddenly and surprisingly a new system emerges at a greater level of scale.”
I have been educating myself and others in my church congregation about the issues faced by homeless people for only one year, and I discovered that both the homeless encampments and my congregation are wonderful examples of beloved community in spite of their superficial differences. Homeless people have developed strong ties of trust and generosity with each other, hold leaders accountable, decide policies democratically and value the voices of the marginalized.
The people of my church opted to reach out to the homeless with volunteer time and money, building shelter and supporting the non-profits engaged in that work. We enlisted two other congregations in the volunteering and raised 27% more funds than our goal. Faced with what to do with the excess money, I suggested that we create a trust fund and invite other churches to contribute.
I began to wonder how many congregations were actively supporting the needs of the homeless in our area, so I data-mined the web. I found 63 out of 216 that publicly list their programs that provide food, clothing or shelter. When I share that information, many people are surprised that there are so many. The next step was to make those 63 congregations tangible by displaying them on a Google map. Then I added the 109 non-profits, the 170 businesses who donate to those non-profits, and the 18 agencies of city and county government that provide services at reduced or no cost. Now I am recruiting individuals to report their acts of kindness and add themselves to the map.
This map is the central piece of evidence for the Emerald Compassionate Action Network. Each icon on the map represents an organization of sometimes hundreds of people actively working to improve the quality of life here. I’m convinced that there are plenty of “love supplies” in our community, they’re just not organized. As Joan Baez said,“That’s all nonviolence is—organized love.”
The religious community has the built-in moral foundation for beloved community, and needs encouragement to reach across boundaries of dogma in order to achieve a critical mass of outstanding collaborative effort with businesses, non-profits and government. The Leadership Foundation and Industrial Areas Foundation are two long-standing organizations working toward the same goals with paid staff and a large cadre of volunteers.
The challenge for our Power of 3 team will be to work nimbly without funding, without the structure of a non-profit institution, with simply an idea about building a giant network of compassion. I’m currently fishing for those two people who appreciate this kind of challenge, and maybe we shall overcome.
— David Hazen