May 29, 2018 Common Good

It Takes a Village

The possibility conversation gives form to one way the gifts of those in the margin get brought into the center. Each person’s possibility counts, especially those whose voices are quieted or marginalized by the drumbeat of retribution. In fact, what distinguishes those on the margin in communities is they tragically live without real possibility. For many youth on the margin, the future is narrow, perhaps death or prison. They have trouble imagining a future distinct from the past or present. This is the real tragedy: not only that life is difficult, but that it is a life that holds no possibility for a different future.

There needs to be a point in each gathering where time is created for the private possibility to be developed and then made public. This works best in two separate steps. The best opening question for possibility is

What is the crossroads where you find yourself at this stage of your life or work or in the project around which we are assembled?

Later, the more direct individual question for possibility will be

What declaration of possibility can you make that has the power to transform

When you conviene strangers through a deliberate invitation that costs something, they typically arrive as strangers. Insofar as those convened experience marginalization, those strangers are not just estranged from one another, but also from their possibilities. To call forth possibility in the room is to ask everyone as individuals what their next choice is (this is the cross-roads question).  To awaken to that together begins to introduce a shared possibility for the gathered room. There is an African proverb that says “It takes a village to raise a child.” Moving from private possibility to community possibility is a “village” habit, strangers cannot make community possibilities come to life.

But this is not enough. That possibility will take time and commitment to mature. So as you invite others, notice that the depth of commitment baked into the invitation often predetermines how far-reaching the imagination and courage of the collective can be. If you invite folks to gather one night, the depth of risk will match that. If you invite folks to a year of month gatherings, the depth will be different.

Did your invitation list include strangers? Are you inviting anyone who does not experience the advantages of life at the center of the community?




Block, Peter. Community: The Structure of Belonging (p. 126). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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