Albert Einstein once said that “coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” I believe we will need many divinely orchestrated connections to move our region to the next level. While boarding the plane for a family vacation, I was surprised that the flight attendant upgraded my family’s tickets to first class. I ended up sitting next to a local leader who I know but haven’t seen in quite some time. Instead of my normal routine – my headphones on and Apple library loaded – before the plane ascended this leader and I were in deep conversation about life, purpose, willing hearts and what is needed to take our community to the next level. This coincidental run-in echoed Einstein’s sentiment. It was meant for me to hear one of the numerous perspectives about the state of the St. Louis region.
Those of us (including this leader) who have our ear to the ground, deep in the trenches in our own way, understand the urgency of now. I shared that I remain convinced that the fate of our community is tied to the willingness of local leaders to listen in a new way. We must understand that the issues that impact us deeply – violent crime, drug abuse, economic and educational inequities, and hopelessness – are all linked. And that there are no easy fixes.
We need a renewal of hearts and minds. We need to work differently. We need to invest differently. We need to build the muscle in the nonprofit sector to track and report what matters differently. We need a new level of accountability across systems – government and private – and among people who need help. But the most important thing that we need is a game plan. Yes, a strategy that most can buy into, and a way to track our progress. We shouldn’t attempt to tackle a thousand issues as our regional priority. Instead let’s focus our efforts on gaining some system efficiencies and prioritizing education, jobs and the wraparound supports that make achieving both more probable. This will directly impact our regional competitiveness and pay huge dividends in the future.
To change the trajectory of a generation and our region, we need a spiritual collision to happen among leaders whose courage and capacity to usher in change is amplified and activated in the knowledge that they are not alone. There are no chance encounters in this world and understanding the purpose of each encounter is difficult; to the willing heart in time all things are revealed. The future is ours to shape—we have to intentionally engage in a broader plan.
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