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Becky Goodwin: No ‘ankle biting’ needed

Other Voices
Becky Goodwin

The glass is half full, and we cannot fill it up. Someone will have to go thirsty.

The pie is limited. We can only cut it into so many pieces. Someone will not get a slice.

I am sad about a persistent negative belief I encounter in every segment of society. The negative belief is this: that we cannot meet all needs, that we cannot solve all problems, that we are stuck with the unjust economic and political systems in which we live.

I’m not a starry-eyed optimist, and I’m not stupid. I understand budgets, income and expenses. What I am talking about is something much bigger than what we measure with dollar signs. I am talking about spiritual power. We humans have a lot more of it than we may realize!

I can’t stop thinking of the Nov. 13 front page article “A Place of their Own,” about some local advocates for a senior center. They came before the Nevada County Board of Supervisors to make the case for development of a social and resource center for senior citizens. Many cities and counties smaller than us have such places. Why can’t we?

Somehow these senior center advocates were encouraged to compete with advocates who have appeared for years on behalf of public support for the homeless. One supervisor described the advocates for shelter and services for the homeless as “ankle biters.” I suppose this is because of their many passionate appearances before the Board. I guess I am one of those “ankle biters!” I’ve spoken my three minutes a couple of times! The supervisor suggested that advocates for the senior center should do the same.

How horrible to refer to advocates for any cause as “ankle biters!” How sad it is that any of us feel we have to compete for money to meet human needs. This is just one example of the “glass half empty-limited pie” attitude in our land. We wring our hands in hopelessness just because we don’t see enough money in the pot. We believe we cannot have justice and wholeness and peace for all people. We grieve our dashed hopes and dreams deferred. We comfort ourselves with our distractions and our precious opinions.

Can we end homelessness and can we open a senior center? If we only look at spreadsheets with numbers on them, we will surely be discouraged. But if we look beyond our “same old same old” attitude, and tap into our spiritual power, we will discover grace, hope and resources way beyond dollars!

How do we tap into our spiritual power? It’s not magic. Its work, spiritual work. All human beings are spiritual beings who can do this work.

We begin by feeding our vision and imagination. We share our big ideas. We dare to think outside the boxes. In churches, temples and synagogues, we pray. Yes! We pray! We also study, sing, create, serve others, and enjoy fellowship to build creative community. So if you aren’t involved with any religion, you may want to try it! It will nourish your creative soul! If it doesn’t, you’re in the wrong religious group. Go somewhere else.

Alongside the big dreaming, we must also acknowledge the pain of historic oppression that has caused much of the injustice. We must take the time and have the courage to name the roots of wrong.

If we have benefitted from the injustice, we need to wake up and understand it. We must then make sacrifices, give up privilege, and begin to share the goods of society with all our neighbors.

If we have been neglected and harmed by injustice, we must affirm our rights to something better. It’s OK to be upset about what’s wrong!

So now, with our vision fired up, and our truth told, we go on to more spiritual work! We list possibilities besides the ones that cost money. Who can give talent and time to the cause? How do we build something that is seemingly-impossible, and how do we get onto the path to the possible?

For instance, about that senior center: has anyone thought of asking churches to host a rotating center until a permanent place can be established?

With community vision, creativity, truth-telling and cooperation, we can do all good things. The glass will fill to overflowing. The pie will never run out of slices. No “ankle biting” needed!

Becky Goodwin is pastor at Grass Valley United Methodist Church.


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