On Trust

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We met with someone this week that gave us their opinion on why community development isn’t happening in our neighborhood. He told us of his experience with division, and how he felt that either side of our main street was disconnected from each other based on going east or west. He felt community development couldn’t begin until we come together and formed a line through the center of the main street, and residents, business owners, and community members from either side of town walked down the middle to shake hands and look each other in the eye, maybe even smile about it if we’re lucky. He explained that he felt, in our southern town, that a black man and a white man need to be able to look each other in the eyes when the cross on the sidewalk. He said it doesn’t happen now. 

This is big, and we often don’t take the time to think about this side of community development. We like to think up mural concepts. We like to plan the community gardens. We like to plan big events for our downtowns. 

But, truthfully, none of that matters. None of it has legs without this first.

We need to trust each other.

We need to see each other. Actually see each other.

Our urge to see people as people needs to outweigh our urge to look down at the sidewalk when we walk by. Our desire to interact with our neighbors needs to be stronger than our desire to check our phones instead.

Our work includes graphic design and branding projects, public art projects and placemaking initiatives. These things feel soft to many, and even to us at times. It’s easier to gravitate towards the harder side of our work: fill the buildings, write the reports, finish the deliverables, check the boxes. But at the end of the day, it’s even softer than we realize because people and communities, their living, breathing pieces and parts, are soft. It’s about the business owners and the young newly weds that walk their dog downtown. It’s about the high school kids that like to hang out in the park. We do the work that we do for the people, to feel safe and be able to thrive.

The products and the deliverables don’t need us.

“Many cities, these days, seem to have people living on the surface of life but hardly in its soil, diluting the deepest questions of life in television monologues and reality shows, amusing ourselves to death, as Neil Postman would say. But this city feels different. It feels like these people have come up with different answers to the why questions.

Houston makes you feel that life is about the panic and the resolution of panic, and nothing more. Nobody stops to question whether they actually need the house and the car and the better job. We can’t see the stars in Houston anymore. We can’t to the beach without stepping on a Coke bottle, we can’t hike in the woods, because there aren’t any more woods.

We can only panic about the clothes we wear, panic about the car we drive, sit stuck in traffic and panic about whether or not the guy who cut us off respects us. We want to kill him, for crying out loud, and all the while we feel a need for new furniture and a new television and a bigger house in the right neighborhood. We drive around in a trance, salivating for Starbucks while that great heaven sits above us, and that beautiful sunrise is happening in the desert, and all those mountains out West are collecting snow on the limbs of their pines, and all those leaves are changing colors out East.” -- Donald Miller, Through Painted Deserts