Once there was a land where the great rivers flowed from the mountains onto rolling hills and across fertile plains. Blue skies, red sunsets, amazing vistas and abundant wildlife abounded. Freedom loving, hardworking people came and for a hundred years and they worked together and built upon the land. The tilled and seeded, raised livestock and built cities and more freedom loving hardworking people came to join them. They mined, felled, drilled and dug the bountiful natural resources and built a strong caring community. A community where cowboys cared for children and city dwellers supported farmers. A community where each person accepted responsibility for themselves, their family and their neighbours grew. If a barn was razed, it was rebuilt. If a road was impassable, it was cleared. If someone was troubled, they were lifted up. If a barrier was identified, it was overcome – together.
There was a bounty shared by all who cared to join the inhabitants of the land. The blessings of opportunity, promise and hope teemed in a measure equal to the material blessings that were created. Hope was born out of industriousness and inclusion. As hope flourished, unimagined opportunities manifested themselves and unexpected forms of providence appeared.
Neighbours didn’t always agree but they lived together with honour and respect. They debated passionately but held space for the opinions of others.
A man came into the land and saw all that was good and he was jealous. Envy and despair grew in him and he set out to undermine and destroy what the people had built.
Saying to one here “you deserve more” another there “ why work so hard” and another “ that isn’t your job” At first his prodding was ignored and the people kept living together in community but the man’s voice was joined by many others with the power of print, radio, and TV. Their message began to take root. “Why worry about your neighbour. Was he there for you?” “Leave that for the next guy to do. You have done your share already”. “Let’s hire someone to do our work and we can relax in the sun”.
After a few dozen years or so, the passion and purpose that built the land was forgotten and the language of self-reliance and responsibility was erased and replaced by delegates and servants hired to look after every need. The sky darkened and neighbours built fences of fear. Trust evaporated and was replaced by rules of entitlement. People still came seeking liberty but they didn’t find freedom and opportunity and the sweat of their brow or the power of their skills wasn’t appreciated. A community turned into a group of individuals who happened to live in the same place. The man and his ilk said ” Our economy is strong”, ” we have too many freeloaders”, ” we need to protect ourselves”, ” we can’t let more people come here”.
Soon neighbour threatened neighbour. Disagreements were handled by the court. Prisons were built and filled and more prisons were needed. Debate became vitriolic rhetoric full of untruths and logical fallacies. Distrust turned to disgust and then to hatred. Hope evaporated and opportunities disappeared. People stopped coming and started to leave. The man and his bloc were satisfied that their jelousy had poisoned the community and they packed their carpetbags and moved on to infect another place with their economic arguments, their prejudice, and their fear.
This story is written by someone who observed the shift – a child born in the midst of abundance and caring who now nearly 30 years old, sees scarcity and greed. Her great wish is for a return to ‘the good-old-days’ but realizes that fear has its foothold and is gaining strength. It would take leadership, commitment and comp[assion to restart the journey towards hope. She can’t do it alone but she can do her part with a challenge; “I leave you this story, how it continues is up to you ..”