Dear friends: Hope — it’s a staple of the American diet. Gas prices approach $5 a gallon and we confidently shift our thinking to nitrogen powered cars and wind turbines. Grocery prices skyrocket and we merely trim out the gourmet extras. The economy dips toward recession and we simply tighten our belts and wait for the turn-around. While not hesitant to grumble, we are a people robustly hopeful. Hope is deeply imbedded in our cultural DNA.
There are some pockets in our society, however, where hope is much more fragile. In some inner-city neighborhoods, hope is in much shorter supply. After generations of toil, some folk have yet to realize the fruit of their labors. Their dreams seldom rise above immediate survival needs. There is hope, yes, but not so much as to tantalize or torment. It must be reined in, controlled, in an environment where repeated setbacks are the predictable norm.
Hope once flickered dim among the long-neglected residents of South Atlanta. And then hopeful, energetic, FCS happened along with its unbridled optimism. Slowly at first, conversations began about some of the pressing needs in the community. Then a couple tentative steps were taken toward working together — a clean-up project, a small fund-raiser. In time we began to dream dreams together of a reborn community, of young couples pushing baby strollers, of playgrounds and stores and churches and good schools. And eventually we made commitments to each other to turn these dreams into reality. Excitement and energy began to flow. Together we built new homes and recruited good neighbors. We reclaimed a liquor store and turned it into a clothing store and community center. We started a new school and a range of programs for youth and seniors. Crime decreased. Hope among residents, long restrained, was released to the skies.
And then the foreclosure tsunami hit. Overnight houses started boarding up. Vandals moved in. Property values began to free-fall. Our gains began to slip through our fingers. Fear crowded out optimism. Yesterday’s hope, so full of promise, now falters like a wounded bird.
As a hope-filled ministry, FCS might easily take the position “this too shall pass.” Batten down the hatches until the storm passes. The sun will come out tomorrow, the market will eventually correct and we will be there to help pick up the pieces. After all, hard times come and go and the poor we will always have with us. We could take this position. But to hunker down against the foul winds, stay warm and dry while the exposed people of South Atlanta absorb the full brunt of the storm would be an abuse of privilege difficult to justify. They have far more to lose than FCS does. Their loss would be more than just their homes. They have risked all their hope on a dream. And that dream is vanishing. We must do all that is within our power to keep that precious hope from plummeting into despair.
That is why we are committing ourselves to the daunting task of stemming the foreclosure tide in at least this one community. We will assemble the brightest minds and most capable leaders to form a blue ribbon taskforce to assess the crisis and prioritize the needs. We will mobilize volunteers and paid professionals to go on the point for each of the multiple facets of this undertaking. We will raise capital to acquire and rehab boarded-up properties. We will negotiate with mortgage companies to save the homes of financially strapped homeowners. We will establish neighborhood crime watches and security patrols to control the looting and vandalism. In short, we will muster all of the resources we possibly can to confront the storm and minimize its damage.
We are very hopeful that this strategy will work. We need all our hopeful friends to join us in the effort. Our hope may prove to be the determining factor in the preservation of dwindling hope in a very fragile community.
Hoping to hear from you,