Guest Blog: Hope From the Bottom Up
April 11, 2017
For many of us, the last 12 months have been an unrelenting downer. What started as a quixotic run for the Presidency by Donald Trump turned into a victory. That victory has left many of us bewildered and afraid of what the next few years might bring domestically and internationally.
We have seen attacks on immigrants, attempts to take away health care from millions of people, and the removal of a number of environmental protections to name just a few serious threats to what many of us consider matters of social justice and equity.
What has happened to our country? What will happen to our country over the next few years?
These are important questions. Many of them cannot be answered yet. But amidst this pessimism, there are some signs of hope.
On a national basis, people around the country have become active again in our democratic processes. People showed up at airports to assist citizens and immigrants banned from re-entering or entering our country. A massive number of individuals and groups opposed the attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In both of these matters, the fight for social justice is not over. But elected officials at the national level have taken note of this surge of citizen activism and are reconsidering the policies they propose and support.
Another positive sign of hope is the growing number of people and organizations who are making part of the world a better place from the bottom up.
An example of this is what is going on in the Greater Racine area. Two grassroots groups have sprung up in the last two years to mobilize the community to address a wide range of issues affecting our area. One group is called Visioning a Greater Racine (VGR). The other group is called Greening Greater Racine (GGR).
VGR is conducting community visioning sessions which involve a diverse group of over 1,000 people representing neighborhoods, schools, businesses, not for profits, churches, and local governments, as well as many individuals who want to make a positive difference. Community goals are being defined, priorities are being determined, and programs are being developed.
GGR is bringing together a broad range of organizations which impact the environment of our area. At these meetings, the organizations are learning from each other, coordinating their efforts, and celebrating their successes.
The GGR movement sprung from Racine Green Congregations, an ecumenical group which formed 8 years ago. Green Congregations’ initial purpose was to share ideas and successes in making their own places of worship more energy efficient. Much has been accomplished along those lines.
Then, based on the broader environmental concerns shared by all worship groups in the community, Green Congregations helped lead the formation of the larger Greening Greater Racine movement. The informal mantra of both groups is: Inform…Inspire…Celebrate!
From an information standpoint, we have all been amazed about how many good things are already happening in our community every day. Good people and good organizations are making a positive difference to quality of life from an economic and environmental perspective.
From an inspiration standpoint, it lifts all of our spirits to meet and work with so many people who are already making a positive difference. As we get to know each other better, build trust, and see new possibilities for future accomplishments, we are filled with hope.
From a celebration standpoint, we make it a point to not take for granted the good work that is already being done to make our community a better place to live, work, and raise a family.
One example of this spirit of celebration first happened in the Spring of 2016 and was repeated this Spring. Greening Greater Racine worked with our local community college, Gateway Technical College, to host EcoFest. 60 plus organizations set up informative and interactive displays of their environmental work at the community college. Close to 1,000 people visited EcoFest both years. People were simply amazed regarding the many positive programs that are already going on. Many have been inspired to join these efforts.
I look at the challenges ahead remembering these words from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans: “Let us…exult in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation works out endurance, and endurance tried virtue, and tried virtue hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
I also think of the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” We all need to make this period of tribulation an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to pour forth God’s love into our hearts and into our world. And we need to remember that what starts from the bottom up can bring about positive and great change for our communities, our country, and our world.