People miss the point of what it means to do community organizing. It’s very clear that people already see the worst of us. We are defined from the outside, the story told about us shaped by the news and media and fueled by people’s own biases. That’s all that’s visible to most people, to the point that the negative story of us shapes, if not defines, even how we see ourselves. We have been beaten down so much, we no longer see each other.
We need mirrors. People in the neighborhood need to see themselves, their potential, their gifts, their talents, something to show the best of themselves. And there’s no better mirror than story. As a part of getting to know our neighbors, we want to capture bits of their story, who they are, their dreams and their passions. The gifts they bring to the world. And we want to highlight them. Show them off and brag about them. Once they’ve caught glimpse of the narrative of who they are, it can help them change the narrative of who they could be.
People don’t invest in us, people invest around us. People talk about “the poor” but they don’t know the poor. Someone needs to tell our stories. People need to know us, we need to know each other, and we need to know ourselves. We need to train ourselves and others to see the best of each person in the community. People need to see the best of what we have to offer, to see each other as valuable. What people need to see is the potential in each and every one of us. And in our stories, people can see hope.