As the advent season peaks, I’ve been deep in thought about fear. There are so many examples of fear in the bible including Mary being fearful of the angel that appeared to her which in reality you would think would be a really awesome awe-inspiring experience. But no, she was scared. It makes her human, and that to me is important. I think about my own fear. I think about my doubt, my insecurities, and what happens when we finally conquer these fears.
For Daniel and David, it’s courage. But what was this courage? How did they get it? How did they find it? How did it come to them? Because however they did it, I want that. Was it a vision? Was it a physical sign like a billboard reading, “take thy sword and slayeth this lion!”-God. Because that would be an awesome billboard. And poor Mary. In her fear, she was instilled with more fear and the onset of anxiety brought on by motherhood.
But the joy! Think of the joy! The Christmas season asks us to remember this joy! The joy in conquering our fears! The strength we have gained when we have conquered our battles, the things we have learned. When we abandon our fear, when we conquer it, this I believe to be where work (real, true, honest, dedicated work) gets done. This is where we are truly the closest to God when we live without fear. I would like to share with you all some of my hopes, fears, and battles for the upcoming months in a project I am beginning work on with Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida.
The Partners in Progress Initiative is a group of various non-profit, for-profit, and community stakeholders working together in a total revitalization effort of the Northwest 79th St Corridor. The eastern boundary being I-95 running about 40 blocks west to the tri-rail/metro-rail transfer station. The corridor was once the thriving center of “black” Miami pre-integration. As integration occurred, people began to leave the area heading to Miami Beach, Hialeah to the west and Broward County to the north for shopping, living, and entertainment leaving most of the corridor empty.
Of course, to the greater Miami community, the corridor holds a poor reputation. But I want to stop looking at and entertaining this poor reputation. I look one block past 79th St, I look at 81st St, I look at 78th St, and it’s just a neighborhood. Well kept lawns, neighbors interacting with each other, families, and people who are employed. In this, I see opportunity. The greater goal of the PIP Initiative is to create jobs and a thriving safe place of economic opportunity and that the 79th St corridor is a place of choice for residents to live. This has included construction of affordable housing options and new businesses bringing jobs. Wal-Mart (yes, Wal-Mart) is even part of this revitalization simply because it brings people and jobs to the area. Here there is a need to bring people to the area—to once again make the area thrive.
Under the supervision of my boss, I’ve been assigned the task of Community Engagement for the Initiative. After extensive research on the area as well as various community projects that have “worked,” I made my project proposal on Wednesday. I proposed that we simply post fliers on three different blocks that read, “Do you talk to your neighbor?” and a tear away portion some that say “yes,” and others that say, “no.” Our number is on the part of the sign that the person can pull off so that they can get more information about our work as an organization and how they too can engage their neighbor. The piece is a grassroots piece based on the work of Boston based community organizer, Tim Devin. You can read more about this and some of his other projects on his website. I highly recommend his work for anyone looking for an artistic community project.
The second aspect of the project is to connect recent graduates of our Miami Community Leadership Institute with residents of these three blocks that we identified to encourage civic engagement among residents as well as establishing connection between residents and the initiative. To me, this is what I identified as the most important aspect of civic engagement. We want residents to feel that their voices are being heard and that the initiative is keeping residents in tune with what is happening.
My fears are that it won’t work. That it won’t happen. That no one will listen. That voices will be silenced, that people will feel like they’re not being heard. That our outcome of a self-expanding project is an unrealistic one. But if I don’t find the courage, if I don’t take the first step. If I don’t listen for the angel, if I can’t find my courage, if I walk away then I’ll always live in regret that I never stood up.
Fear feels temporary. It feels like it can always be conquered even when you see no light at the end of the path. The hardest part of the journey is the first step. Lord, in your mercy, at least grant me that—the courage to take the first step.