If you listen to the political rhetoric, Democrats are all about “big government” and Republicans are on the side of “big business.” I have never considered myself politically inclined and if these are my only choices – I choose neither.  There must to be a better option!

By day, my friend Zane works for city government and spends time meeting with the Mayor and department heads.  At night, he ditches the suit and tie for jeans and a hoody.  You will find him hanging out with a handful of urban youth helping them find their voice through music. Though he is a Democrat and works for local government, he will tell you the answer is not more government programs.

My friend Leroy is a Republican.  He worked as a mid-level manager in corporate American for more than 20 year. He left big business and a big salary to take a position as a community builder working for Embrace Richmond. He spends his time working one-on-one with neighborhood residents, connecting them together around what they care about.  He will tell you big business will not solve our problems.

Both men have reached the same conclusions, “Small is beautiful!”

Margaret Thatcher once said,

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

If you are like me, sick of the divisive partisan politics, then you are also likely searching for a path forward that does not require rolling over and playing dead.  How do we stand for what we believe in, but not add to the problem by being drawn into the political quagmire?

I think Margret Thatcher and the Obamas would give us the same answer – focus on the power of the citizens. I recently ran across www.obama.org and loved the objective of their foundation:

“The Obama Foundation is a living, working start-up for citizenship — an ongoing project for us to shape, together, what it means to be a good citizen in the 21st century.”

I am done waiting on some knight in shining armor to come in and rescue our nation.  Obama tried, Trump is trying and I can promise you both will fail just like every other president before them.  We are too vast a nation with too many challenges. There is no “one-size fits all” solution. Big government and big business have both been tried and found inept.

The cancer that has eroded the social fabric of our nation is too advanced. We need a cure that will work at the cellular level.  We need to strengthen America from the inside out, one neighborhood at a time.  We need solutions that are organic and shaped by the people most impacted by the issues.

I live in an urban context in Virginia, but I grew up in a small rural town in Texas.  Both have challenges but what works in Richmond’s inner city is unlikely to address the issues of my friends in small town Texas.

I am not a Republican, I am not a Democrat, I am not a Libertarian.  I am a citizen!

The Obama Foundation is soliciting definitions of the word “Citizen” and I found this one most helpful:

“Being a great citizen is about showing up, standing up, and speaking up!”

I understand that the word citizen can be a challenging one for our undocumented neighbors.  However, rather than abandon the word, I think we need to reclaim it as a privilege that also comes with tremendous responsibilities.

Yes, the government has failed us. Yes, big business has harmed us.  However, if we are pointing fingers, we need to take a long hard look in the mirror.

For the past several months, I have found it impossible to write about what is happeing in our nation.  Every time I sat down to write, I feared my words would add to the divide that is tearing our nation apart.

However, when I look out my window, I see something remarkable.  I see unity in the midst of incredible diversity.

A few weeks ago, there was a murder on my block. A large number of my neighbors of all races, ages, economic means and political leanings showed up to stand in solidarity.  We stood for unity.  We stood for peace. We stood as neighbors, and as citizens.

How did that happen? It took years of relationship building, trust-building, and the dedication of neighborhood leaders who can look beyond difference and see the beloved community with all its beauty and flaws.

Embrace Richmond will be giving away $10,000 to civic groups who are living out their citizenship and we will be investing an additional $20,000 in providing training, coaching and support to these civically engaged citizens.

So, rather than avoid writing all together or getting sucked into the political games, I am going to focus on writing the stories of citizens who are showing us a path forward by modeling what citizenship looks like in their communities.

Click To Tweet