Restoring Community With Wisdom And Connection


La Habana

The evening news reveals America’s challenges, and these periods of change create uncertainty. They’re also opportunities to assess our individual role within our community. Why did our grandparents, parents or we decide to make this land our home?
Economic opportunity is the shiny prize that we pursue to meet our basic needs or fantasies of grandeur, but there is a deeper value wisely woven into this land’s spirit. Freedom is a spiritual tenet that tells us we each are unique, priceless, needed, and it has always spoken to our soul.

Race and class are differences that can lead us to separate into familiar groupings. We become more exclusive and miss out on broader connections and deeper meaning in our everyday lives. America’s
generosity has continuously received countless people from around the world. People like a young Cuban refugee fleeing gunfire during the revolution and seeking the chance to decide his own path.
That refugee was my father and 53 years ago, he left behind a beloved home on a leap of faith.
He reinvented himself despite not speaking English and faced the backlash of the civil rights years changing the land. He arrived with only his faith and his love of family. He came knowing the loss of freedom, but not prepared to manage the multitude of social freedoms in the U.S. He fell, succeeded, and contributed his sweat, hopes, and a loving family.
He carried both his island and his America in his heart at all times.

It was this love of his culture that taught many American friends the amazing flavors of his island. Most evenings found the children on the block at our front door knocking, while holding empty bowls. They came for his delicious Cuban black beans for their own dinner tables. They were experiencing about differences and commonalities between neighbors.
They were learning to reach out, and connect on a personal level without fear. These were only some of many moments in which my father shared his proud heart with his new land.

We buried him this summer in his beloved American soil, surrounded by all who loved his unique Cuban soul. His wisdom came from his tenacity, his endless supply of hope, and his willingness to share it well
into his later years.
Our elders are needed to help overcome anxiety and fears between cultures
and communities trying to find a common purpose today. Every American community battles needs, isolation, fear, and the many struggles of living that can lead to powerlessness and apathy. In contrast, personal contributions of faith, trust, and sacrifice between people build strong families and inspire communities. Can our older generation assume this role of support if they’ve never been stretched to interact personally with people from different cultures? This is our human challenge.

We can unite through service, bond beyond our familiar group, merge with a higher purpose, and connect the wisdom between generations.

Countless young people carry little knowledge of how to develop their talents and how to pursue their dreams, while others lack basic support and encouragement. Every lost youth is lost potential resulting from our failure to build each generation stronger than the previous one- regardless of superficial differences.

In 2016, we will be electing the next leader of our world’s most prominent democracy, during a time of much disillusionment in leadership.
He or she will be leading the nation into a pivotal time of growth and transition. It will be a time of a young America finding its voice and place within the American story. The participation of our population
in this process is essential in protecting our system of a representative democracy.
This generation will be unlike any other in our history, as it is the most ethnically diverse. By 2050, the  U.S. will consist of a majority ethnic population, and developing civic participation will suffer with the rhetoric of division today.
Seeking the best of communities through connection is the ongoing work of the wise. We agree to protect the diversity of inspiration within a museum of fine art, because each unique expression reminds us of our priceless, higher potential.

Once we can see each other as unique and valuable because of our different traits, we will become more inspired to overcome challenges in our American communities. All it takes is the humility to respect every life, and admit we have something more to learn.

Indeed, there is lasting wisdom in a shared bowl of black beans.

›› By Maria Baños Jordan

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