- Discouraged = to lose heart, to be disheartened
- Courage = “of the heart”
- Suggesting the brave-hearted core of courage beats also in the warm-hearted core of cordiality.
- Suggesting that in seeking the cordial warmth of other human voices we may find our hearts once more beating bravely where they should be.
- Suggesting that what we love feeds our courage.
I am talking myself through a kind of verbal yoga, a little acrobatic act of optimism. The kind of thing we wordies do to say we had some discouraging doubts, we did, about this project.
And these doubts put me on hold a little while I asked myself:
Am I just making pie-in-the-sky and rosy-eyed fairy embroideries on the subject of Our Town where I should have maintained a grim silence?
Are the problems here the kind that need something more explosive than the pen (or keyboard) to begin to address them?
Is there less to celebrate than to lament in this town?
Eating my heart out a little.
I could have left this disheartening hesitation out of the planned 24 posts on revitalizing a town – pushing it aside as too personal and therefore irrelevant to the project of bringing a town back to full and vibrant life.
But I believe it is the power of what we believe in our hearts that really makes or breaks whatever we try to do — wherever we are living. It is the powerful sway of what we tell ourselves, and tell each other, about our efforts here and our believable possibilities that actually shapes our town, our nation, our individual lives. The stories we tell ourselves shapes not just our perceptions of it — but our actions in it.
It’s not just because I’m such a wordie that I believe telling stories is a political act.
Do we know what stories we need in order to imagine a clearer future?
Trusting that I could warm my chilled heart in the cordiality of my neighbors, I turned to other people in town and asked them –
Why do you live here? why did you come? why do you stay? what were you hoping you would find here? how has that hope been realized? what disappointment?
And then, if they were willing, I asked two further questions: (1) What one thing would you like to have change about our town? (2) What one thing do you hope never changes about where we live?
The answers that came back delighted me. I am not the only one with a passion to find a good place to live, to make this a better place to live. I was not the only one who saw some problems here and many strengths. More exciting was to see aspects I had missed of this picture I’m in the process of sketching of our town. Parts of a dream of what our town could be that I hadn’t dreamed yet.
I received many great answers with specific examples and I’ll be drawing from them throughout the rest of this project. A few responders even took time to write thoughtful and even inspiring evocations of what this town is to them, what it has been, what it could be – those I think I will showcase in separate posts of their own.
And then – seemingly out of the blue — a wise older woman, unprompted leaned over the brown eggs she was handing me and said, “It doesn’t matter, you know, if we can’t reach our dreams. We’re just leaning on the fence, slowly breaking it down. We’re making it easier for our children to come after.”
Meanwhile, I’ve been reading Smart Swarm (how understanding flocks, schools, and colonies can make us better at communicating, decision making, and getting things done) by Peter Miller who quotes in turn from Scott Page, an economist at the University of Michigan:
When people see a problem the same way, they’re likely all to get stuck at the same solutions.
As Miller concludes, “But when people with diverse problem-solving skills put their heads together, they often outperform groups of the smartest individuals. Diversity, in short, trumps ability.” For as he quotes Page as saying,
there is no mystery here. Mistakes cancel one another out, and correct answers, like cream, rise to the surface.
Here’s hoping for cream.
what MAKES it | BREAKS it
- + diversity of backgrounds in this town
- – trash-talking our town
- + diversity of talents
- – defeatism beating some of us before we even begin
- + people who already are trying to change things
- + the buoyancy of hope