A series of recent conversations with a colleague on the potential role of community “stewards” to empower public advocacy efforts reminded me of earlier discussions on network or community weavers. For advocacy today may be more than providing a stronger voice; neighborhoods have need of new eyes, new ears, fresh energy at multiple levels to reweave the fabric of connection, trust, and mutual support that represents the essential vitality and resilience of foundational community.
So I really liked the image of “stewards” as those who watch over and cultivate the resourcefulness of the community, ensuring that nothing is lost or wasted; who maintain the vital connections of dialogue, learning and engagement that continually refresh the collective wisdom and heritage, while steadfastly standing up for and celebrating the presence and possibility of each individual and family.
Perhaps new to this role of stewardship are the various scales of interaction, within the neighborhood among families, businesses, schools, and organizations; and between the neighborhood and the wider public, at the city, regional and perhaps even national levels, from city councils and state agencies to school boards, regional business associations, and perhaps even more importantly, to kindred souls in far-flung neighborhoods facing similar challenges and opportunities with their own growing body of knowledge and learnings. Now, perhaps more than ever before, we can see with greater clarity how simple patterns of engagement are repeated at different levels of scale to form a broader, richer tapestry of participation that reaches from the local church and school yard to literally span the globe.
Of course there will be positions to stake out and defend and injustices to expose and bring to an end. But perhaps the driving force and deepest hope for the future lies in the re-establishment and expansion, from the “inside out,” of a sphere of trust and mutual support, based not primarily on need but on a new found recognition and respect for those who had been overlooked, forgotten, marginalized, invisible and unheard.
The age of “bowling alone” may be coming to an end. And the “mystic chords of memory…will yet swell the chorus” of a more profound sense of Union.