I mentioned last week in my post called Leadership Lessons: Boldness that I am the lead on a new initiative by the Peterborough Poverty Reduction Network. I can actually now talk about what we are doing because we had the official press release on Tuesday. The Peterborough Poverty Reduction Network is currently in due diligence to purchase the former convent of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. What does that mean exactly? Well if all goes well, this property has the potential of being a community hub which could include affordable housing, a food hub, offices for not for profits. Check out this article in the Peterborough Examiner.
I have the privilege to be the lead on the Vision/ Governance group which is determining what the vision is for the property. Today we discussed the Values and Principles that we want to hold as a group. We talked about community and inclusiveness, diversity and innovation. We are crafting a Mission Statement for the project.
I brought up the point that what we believe about people is how we allocate space. I used to want to be in city planning. Thinking through that I realized that city planners are theologians of sorts. What they believe about people determines how they allocate space. The reality is that those who live in poverty have access to less space than those who aren't living in poverty. We talked about as a group that we want people who may live in this community to be able to access beautiful space. I have thought in the past that wouldn't it be awesome if it was turned on it's head that the most beautiful space was accessible to poor. Below is a shot of the beautiful chapel (Steve Kylie and Sister Veronica)
Another thing I mentioned at the meeting is that the poor have something to give. I learned that very valuable lesson when I was at Wheaton College outside of Chicago. We had a speaker come to a meeting who told us that he felt called by God to move himself and his family into inner city Chicago. He said that the first thing that he had to learn when he began to live in community with those in his low income neighborhood was that the poor have something to give. Being in a position of giving all the time is a position of power but receiving is a position of humility. When we see people in our lives as having the potential of giving back they will feel apart of what is going on.
I am involved in poverty activism because it is important, because I put value in helping people. But this new community at the Mount isn't just about a new housing complex for low income people. It is about diversity and having people from various income levels and backgrounds working out what it means to be a community.
Community is a word that is a bit of a fad right now. We talk about it a lot. But what does it mean to those living on the fringes of society. It means finding a place to contribute, where your work and who you are is valued. It's about relationships, about the mystery of how people become close to each other and love each other. It's about being a part of something bigger than ourselves, something that matters.