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Singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomber used the phrase “the curious promise of limited time” in an interview with Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast and it struck me as we enter another new year. Each New Year comes with a sense of renewal, hope and the ability to see change in our lives. The practice of resolutions is the embodiment of this sense of renewal. I did not send out an end of year message for 2015 other than a plea for support because I did not feel as if I had anything important to say. Newcomber’s phrase, the curious promise of limited time, struck a chord for me as I heard right after my 54th birthday on December 31, 2015. I don’t know if my birthday had me thinking in some introspective manner but that phrase immediately took me to the work here at Beyond Housing. I want to raise this issue of limited time in a number of contexts; personal, organizational and communal.
So 2016 is my 23rd year leading this organization, amazing in and of itself, but it also has me pondering how much time do I have left to carry out my job in the manner I think befits and respects the people who count on us each and every day. My limited time should be spent on how we can have the greatest, long lasting impact for the largest number of people possible. My time, while in some ways, could be as long as 10+ years seems so very short given I began in 1993. I am not promised 10+ years by any stretch of the imagination. My life could change, my board could want to go in another direction or the world we work in could dramatically change. This curious promise of limited time pushes me to view every decision with more importance. This curious promise of limited time pushes me to really see the humanity in all those we serve; the families in our 400+ rental units, the 3,500 children in the Normandy schools, the 700+ families who desire to become homeowners, the 300+ families who fear of losing their homes to foreclosure, the 400+ individuals in our Passport to Health Program and so many more. They are not and cannot be simply statistics. They are real people, real families who want nothing but a better life in any way they chose to define it. The curious promise of limited time must push me to use each and every moment with great strategy and not simply looking at my phone for the umpteenth time to see if there was any random tweet or post I “need” to see. The curious promise of limited time must have me build an organization that is full of smart, passionate and caring staff to continue this important work well into the future.
So 2016 will be, in essence, the 2.0 phase of the 24:1 Initiative. After 5 years of passionate work with a tremendous amount of activity driven by our Ask, Align, Act model of community development we now must use 2016 to set the course for the new phase of this work because our time is limited. More importantly, the lives of those we serve need, want us to be better at our work. The curious promise of time for our organization is imbedded in the notion that we have not had success in our efforts to make the lives of all the residents of the 24:1 Initiative better as of today. We are compelled to push ourselves, our partners, and the people of this community to find more effective ways to address the issues of education, housing, health, jobs and economic development that confront us. The child who lacks school supplies needs us to recognize the limited time he or she has. The child who is homeless needs us to recognize the limited time he or she has. The hungry child needs us to recognize the limited time he or she has. The child who dreams of graduating college and becoming wildly successful needs us to recognize the limited time he or she has. The senior who needs some repairs to their home needs us to recognize the limited time he or she has. The family who has chosen to stay in our community even though they could leave needs us to recognize the limited time they have.
2016 could be the year that the St. Louis region recognizes that it has the curious promise of limited time and what will it do to address the many issues in front of us. Will we as a region step up to the challenge of the Ferguson Commission Report? Limited time will not be our ally. Will we as a region see that we can solve our problems if we truly work together? There are so many positive things happening in the region but the lives of so many have limited time so we must act now. We cannot wait, we cannot pause, and we cannot simply ignore the challenges since we do not have an uncomfortable, immediate issue in front of us. The curious promise of limited time should push us for action, for a sense of urgency because lives do truly hang in the balance. We as a region really don’t want to be remembered as the ones who blinked when we had the chance to act, who paused when we had a chance to move forward, who looked away when we had the opportunity to embrace the humanity of our neighbors.
The curious promise of limited time.
I’ve been working in community development in the St. Louis area for 25 years, and I’ve been the CEO of Beyond Housing since 1993. While I’m proud of our accomplishments, I don’t claim to be an expert. At Beyond Housing, the experts we listen to are the voices of the community members we serve. I’ll be raising issues here that I believe matter to our community. I hope you’ll join the conversation. We do reserve the right not to post comments containing offensive language. To paraphrase Dr. King, we can disagree without being disagreeable.