Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Careful or fearful people.

If I had an accident and the newspapers were reporting it would probably read, "An elderly man was.... " I am, to many people, old. But I know that there are many people old before their time because of the way they think. The story is told of two shoe salesmen. One of them was sent into a very rural area to sell shoes. He took a supply of shoes, got there and met the locals. He sent most of the shoes back to head office with a message saying, "It's no good ... nobody wears shoes around here!" A few months later the second shoe salesman went to the same area. After a brief time head office got a message with an order for more shoes with this message, "It's great! Nobody wears shoes around here!" In the same situation, one saw a brick wall, the other saw an opportunity. In every group I have been in I have encountered examples of the first salesman. "It can't be done!" "We've never done it that way before!" "We have already tried that!" "But what if..?" "Do we know how many? How much it will cost? What are the outcomes? What happens when...?" "You'll never be allowed to..." In my years of experience in the community and in the church I could tell you of many projects limited, or curtailed or halted altogether by such thinking.

There is a need in town for some sort of place where some of the vulnerable people who don't fit other groups can find support, advocacy and direction. A number of us have been exploring possibilities. We had an agency willing to supervise, administer and assist to find funding. But at several points along the journey various people slowed the progress. They wanted to "research it". They wanted all the "i's" dotted and "T's" crossed. They wanted to know all the answers, and have all the directions nailed down and defined. Well just when I thought we were making progress, we had some defining directions and worked through all questions, the all important agency that was offering to "umbrella" the whole thing spat the dummy, pulled out because "the window of opportunity for fundraising had gone"! They asked "Why has it taken so long?" Grrr... because of fearful/careful people!

The thing that annoys me is that the "careful/fearful" people will not really care about what is happening "on the street". Life will go on for them. They will not "see" the vulnerable people or feel their need. It feels like it is all about "management" for them, they do not seem really passionate about meeting the needs of people. They may even consider themselves the wise ones.

Now don't get me wrong. I am a fearful person. There are things I should have done but I have backed out of because I was afraid of failure. There are things I should have spoken up about and challenged people on, or change I should have pushed, but I have been fearful of rejection or conflict and have not proceeded. I guess as I get older I am becoming more impatient. I can see the end of my useful life approaching and I want to make up for lost time.

Today's Revised Common Lectionary set readings seem relevant. In Luke's Gospel Jesus says, "If you had faith as big as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Pull yourself up by the roots and plant yourself in the sea!' and it would happen." It was an expansive Semitic way of saying that faith makes the seemingly impossible, possible. In the second reading from 2 Timothy the writer says, "For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid: instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love and self-control." This is the experience of being filled with a passion to make a difference and the sense of trust that we are not alone in our efforts.

A couple of other quotes to add to the mix...
  • A risk free religion is no religion at all.
  • The only way one learns to trust is to trust.
  • Faith makes things possible, not easy.
Anyway this week I have been saddened by the negative impact that fearful/careful people can have.

The funny thing is I am saying to myself; "Well that's it. Without them the whole idea is shot. We can't do it!" But maybe I should be seeing this as a set back only. May be I am being the negative, fearful person now? I watched a U tube lecture called "The Last Lecture". In it Randy Pausch, who had terminal cancer presented a last lecture that was full of positive thoughts and wisdom. One of his statements was to the effect that "brick walls are only there to sort out those who don't want their dreams bad enough from those who do."

A Poem to finish with;
by Author Unknown

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach for another is to risk involvement.
To expose your ideas, your dreams,
before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To believe is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken, because the
greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The people who risk nothing, do nothing,
have nothing, are nothing.
They may avoid suffering and sorrow,
but they cannot learn, feel, change,
grow, love, live.
Chained by their attitudes they are slaves;
they have forfeited their freedom.
Only a person who risks is free.

Photo: A prayer we found in a chapel in a street front church in London. I loved this church developed in a street front house. The people who did it were prepared to rethink "church", to take a risk and were passionate enough to give it a go.

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