Civility and Change go Together

By Colleen Donahue

My eye caught a recent article by Thomas Friedman entitled “Where American Politics Can Still Work: From the Bottom Up”. It was all about a small city I am most familiar with because of my travels as a sales rep. It’s called Lancaster located in central Pennsylvania in the heart of the Amish Country.

I have been traveling to this city for over 30 years and watching it undergo a sort of revolution without knowing why it was changing. Reading Mr. Friedman’s article explained everything.

Old derelict LancasterLancaster had become a place where nobody wanted to go out at night. As Mr. Friedman put it: “Lancaster was a crime-ridden ghost town at night where people were afraid to venture...”  In 1997 some of the leading citizens decided that time was running out for this little city and formed what they called the “Hourglass” committee. They could clearly see that no one from the government would be arriving anytime soon to save them.

Now, here’s the part of the story that caught me. These business leaders, educators, philanthropists, and assorted other leaders came together every Friday morning at 7:30AM in someone’s home to discuss the most pressing problems of the city. NONE of them were in any government post and all of them were unwilling to see their city die a slow death.

Lancaster Today Lancaster Today

Lancaster has transformed itself over the last 30 years.

Lancaster Today

The “team” was a mixture from our two political parties and they checked their party affiliation at the door before coming in. What mattered most was relationship and solving problems. And so they did. Over the years of traveling to this city I have seen the worst and today am seeing the best. It’s now on the Forbes list of being one of the “coolest cities of America”!

The “Hourglass” committee is novel in these days of bipartisan bickering but is a concept as old as Jesus. When Jesus picked his band of 12 disciples they were from opposite spectrums of life. On the extreme left was Simon the Zealot, wanting to fight against anything Roman. On the extreme right was tax collector Matthew, a Jew willing to work for the Romans. The other ten fell somewhere in between.

The Bible tells us that these men completely left their occupations to focus on following Jesus. Over the 3 years with Jesus they learned how to love each other, listen to each other, and eventually put aside ambitions for their own greatness so that they could change the world. And so they did.

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