We live our lives day to day too frequently. It's only when someone dies or gets sick that we take a moment to reflect and contemplate bigger meanings. The passing of Rep. Lewis has struck a chord with me since I first heard the news. I did not know the Congressman. I have no connection to the Georgia fifth or to his office. However, I've felt a deep sense of sadness these days. A student of history, I've been soaking in the words and stories of John Lewis and the Civil Rights Movement. Reverend James Lawson pointed out the deep connections between racial justice and economic justice, the inseparability of the Civil Rights Movement and the Great Society. We cannot fight racism without fighting poverty and we cannot fight poverty without fighting racism.
I may have never met John Lewis, but his life and his mission have touched me. His commitment to the fundamental teaching of Christ, love, inspires me. As I think of John Lewis's passing, I keep returning to 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 which states: "Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words." What Paul the Apostle reminds us is that our separation with the departed is temporary. What Paul does not tell us is that when a select few pass, their legacies and impacts on others enable them to live on this earth beyond their death. John Lewis is one of those few.
We are left with a life-long example to follow. A commitment to justice and fairness to internalize. A fight for progress that remains unfinished. Verses like Isaiah 61:1 and Jeremiah 22:13-17, both of which call on us to take the actions that John Lewis took time and time again - actions against poverty, against injustice, against inequality. Not too long ago I had a discussion with a friend about how I reconcile my Christian faith with my liberal politics. I told him that there was nothing to reconcile. Scripture informs my liberal politics, it underpins my commitment to the supremacy of love and justice. It gives life to my admiration for people like John Lewis and Oscar Romero, CT Vivian and Andrew Young, MLK Jr. and Pope Francis.
One of my nightly prayers is always the Prayer of Saint Francis. I hope that you find it as empowering as I do, and that it can give you an idea about where I come from:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.
I hope to serve Sarasota in this same spirit. I hope to give myself over to the task of making Sarasota the peaceful, welcoming, source of love that I know it is at times, and can become all the time towards all.
Alongside the national discussion about racial discrimination, we need to have our own dialogue about the role that race plays in Sarasota. That conversation needs to happen among friends and families. Our government should be responsive to the realities of minorities and be willing to make changes when changes needed.
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The will of the citizens supersedes the political interests of Commissioners. 60% of Sarasotans voted for single member districts, the only people that should be able to undo that are the citizens. I'm proposing a change to the county charter that would ensure that the only way to undo petition borne changes to the charter is by another petition drive. Politicians shouldn't get to undo the result of citizens' attempts to hold them accountable.
What works in New York or San Francisco probably won't work in Sarasota County. What works in Salisbury, NC or Gadsden, AL probably won't work in Sarasota County either. We need Sarasota centered solutions and discussions. We cannot let national divisions stop us from coming together on local issues.
Hearing is passive. Nancy Detert heard citizens warn of lawsuits if they redistricted. Al Maio heard citizens' concerns about an expensive waste of money a year before mandatory redistricting. Michael Moran heard citizens oppose his self-interested idea of removing part of Newtown from District 1.
Listening is active. To listen you have to be willing to sit back and consider what the other person is saying. To listen you have to be willing to change your mind, to learn. We need elected officials to listen and not just hear.