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Celebrating the Positive in a Culture of Negative: A Lesson in Community

temar 300x300 Celebrating the Positive in a Culture of Negative: A Lesson in CommunityThis past weekend was rather interesting, both locally and across the country.

The not guilty verdict that was handed down in the George Zimmerman trial brought out the ugly in many, as evidenced by what I not only saw in the news, but also saw in my newsfeed on Facebook and my Twitter stream. Lots of anger, posturing, and finger pointing, and very little of what I would call reasoned discussion.

The end result? A lack of discussion and lots of hate. And it comes from both sides of the issue. And no matter the opinion being offered, we are likely to be hearing it shouted at us.

But locally there were two events that happened that have given me hope, and help me to realize that there is more that brings us together than tears us apart. I am emboldened and empowered by the sense of community I’m seeing here in Lancaster from two stories that went national, and even internationally, in their coverage.

You’ve probably seen the above image floating around Facebook. It’s the story of two teenage boys who took to the streets of our area on their bikes when they heard that a 5-year old girl had been abducted. And while neighbors and law enforcement officials scoured the neighborhood, these two boys spotted the vehicle and chased it, causing the man who took the child to stop and send her out of the car. The boys are being hailed as heroes, rightly so, and have received coverage all over the country, including online publications like the Huffington Post and Gawker.

And yet, when asked about what he did, 15-year old Temar Boggs was rather matter of fact:

“[They] were just saying that I was a hero, that I was a guardian angel and that it was amazing that I was there and was able to find the girl,” said Temar. “I’m just a normal person who did a thing that anybody else would do.”

But is it really something that any of us would do?

Just two days later, another local hero, Jimmie Lee Moore, was laid to rest after losing his life in a house fire just two blocks from my house. I mentioned Moore in a post last week, but he isn’t just a hero for trying to save the people from his burning home. No, he’s a hero for having been an important part of this community for years, always looking for ways to help out. Six of the people who lost their lives in the fire were living in Moore’s home simply because he was a hero. They had been displaced from their home due to circumstances, and rather than see them living on the street, Moore invited them in. Like the rest of us, he could have just turned and looked the other way, but he didn’t. He helped. He often brought people into his home, or gave people food when they were in need.

In fact, the message that was crystal clear at Jimmie’s funeral was:

Be like Jimmie. Be a giver. Be a helper. Be someone who stops and asks, “How are you doing?” and then really listens to the answer.

And the beauty of all of this is that when you look at these two situations, we see that they involve a variety of people from a variety of different races and ethnic backgrounds. Yet, neither of them was about race. We really aren’t divided along races. Or at least we don’t have to be. It’s about living in community with those around us. And you and your business can be a part of the solution, rather than a part of the problem. If the business leaders of your area would stand up and model community for its citizens, I think great things would happen.

When one of my clients, Water Street Ministries, posted about our current heat wave, and taking care of the homeless, I realized how something as simple as a little air conditioning for a few minutes could be the difference between life and death for someone forced to live on the streets. I wrote that I hoped businesses wouldn’t be so quick to shoo them out the door, and would instead find ways to help them, when most of us would look at them with a side glance and walk away.

This makes me think about things like the Suspended Coffee Movement, where people buy coffee ahead of time to be given to the homeless or those who can’t afford a cup, which I so desperately want to see take off here in Lancaster. And it might not even be about the homeless; it might be about something as simple as paying for the order of the next person in line.

Look around your own community. I bet you’ll find stories just like these. They might not all get national attention, but they are there. In fact, look for opportunities to become a part of these stories. Find ways to reach out and help others, regardless of their race or ethnic background. I feel very fortunate to live in the City of Lancaster which is incredibly ethnically diverse.

Do we have problems? You bet we do. Are there racial issues? Of course there are. But the good outweighs the bad. It just doesn’t get noticed as much because it’s a part of the everyday fabric of our community.

How can you not only celebrate the positive in your community, but be a catalyst for positive things in your community? How can you and your business take the lead on bringing about change; the kind of change that might surprise some, but that can be a part of the every day life of your community?