Guest Column: People have power to open hearts to others

Published 10:38 pm Friday, June 2, 2017

Live United by Ann Austin

I was on a walk the other night and came across some neighbors talking in the middle of the road. There wasn’t anything significant about this experience, other than perhaps the mood I was in. I had been digging in the soil all weekend, working with plants — so I was already glowing inside. This encounter made me even more gloriously happy.

I was feeling very appreciative of my life situation. I told my neighbors their conversation (in the middle of the road) is one of the reasons why I love our neighborhood so much.

Ann Austin

Email newsletter signup

Our neighborhood is peaceful and safe and has people who care about each other — they care about us and our children. We are so very lucky.

One of my personal challenges is, as soon as I am appreciative and recognize the gifts I have, I think about how many people are without. I think of the children who live without a loving home or regular meals, our senior citizens who are isolated and in need of a good friend, people who are living with addictions or mental illness — who don’t feel like they belong — and people across the world who are forced to leave their homes because they don’t feel safe.

So often in our world it seems like we live in a power over state, rather than recognizing the role each of us has in building a stronger community. People struggle to take power from each other — to build alliances to have more power — to increase their money or weapons so they can have more power.

Martin Luther King Jr. wrote of a different kind of power — he called it a “power infused with love.” He believed in his heart this kind of power would transform our world — because it would alter our perception of others — and the motivations for the choices we make on a daily basis.

Our capacity for making meaningful change is as good as the quality of motivation of the people involved.

As individuals we each have power — of choice, of the world we create inside of ourselves and how we choose to treat people around us. We can make a peaceful choice. We can choose to open our hearts to others rather than respond in fear. This is power infused with love.

Collectively, we have power to influence the conditions in our community. We are often called to exert this power through our vote — but the power we exert can be more subtle and sustainable. How are we setting ourselves up for success and encouraging the people around us to set and accomplish their goals? We are all capable of so much — sometimes we need someone to believe in us. This is power infused with love.

We are consumers of everything we eat, purchase, watch, think and commit any of our time or energy to. What are we focusing on? What do we really want for our children, our community and our world?

The more people we can bring together in love for each other, the stronger our community will be and the more neighborhoods will evolve into places where people are safe and feel they belong.

This is what we are working for — this is how we LIVE UNITED.

This column is the first in a series that will focus on local nonprofits. Columns will appear every Sunday. Thank you to the Tribune for allowing us this venue to have a voice.

Ann Austin is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.