In all my time and various activities, one lesson continues to hit home with me: for all my knowledge, passion, and interests, if I really want to reach my goals, not only do I need God’s help, I also need the help of other people. I need connection and relationships. This is true not just for me, but for most of us. Yet the world in which I live tends toward emphasizing solitary achievement. Schools educate children to work independently, and many of us (yes, including myself sometimes) loathe group work. But in the church, community organizing, and educational institutions, very little worthwhile work is done completely on one’s own. Committees and task forces are formed and meet to accomplish things together that we can’t do on our own. The ideas I carry around in my head mean very little if they don’t see the light of day, and that won’t happen unless I share them with others.
Then, too, have any of you noticed how lonely life in the current day can be? I read an article recently in which loneliness is no longer a matter of geographical location (being away from people), but instead is more a state of mind. I work full-time and have a wonderful and loving family, and yet in the busy-ness of getting everyday necessary work completed it can be challenging to have the more in-depth kinds of social interactions that lead to a sense of shalom – beyond the “peace” this word is usually translated, to its more comprehensively-encompassing sense of overall well-being, not just for myself but for the world around me and those in it, as well. Instead, many days can take on rather Groundhog Day-esque characteristics: the same dull, surface conversations repeated ad nauseum in the quest to accomplish what needs doing and be ready for the next day. This does not seem like the “life abundant” to which Jesus refers in John 10:10.
Faith-based community organizing recognizes the importance of relationships, and encourages all leaders and organizers to have regular 1-on-1 relational interviews with people they would like to know better. This is important and I encourage all people reading to schedule a 1:1 with anyone you’d like to know better.
I have considered ways to build relationships and community with T+P+A that work for who we are and what we do. In that spirit, Think+Pray+Act is doing a Big Read in 2019! We are thoughtful readers at T+P+A who are interested in building relationships, as they are foundational to all the work of building and revealing the empire of God in the world. One of the things about thoughtful people (especially those of us on the introverted side of things) is that sometimes we don’t do small talk very well, and in today’s hyper-online age that can make it difficult for us to meaningfully connect in person, as it’s often assumed that if we’re connecting online and things are getting done, there’s no problem. But personal connection is still so necessary for relationship development, and so we are always seeking out new ways to build relationships. One way to build relationships is through community reading and discussion experiences.
What’s a Big Read or Community Read?
What is a Big Read?
Whether it’s called a city-wide book club, a state-wide reading campaign, “If All of Seattle Read the Same Book,” or “One Book, One City,” communities of all shapes and sizes are adopting the concept originated by the Washington Center for the Book: people coming together through the reading and discussion of a common book.
Since 1998, when the Washington Center for the Book hosted author Russell Banks for four days of programs and discussion about his novel, The Sweet Hereafter, communities all over the United States have increasingly embraced the notion of civic unity through the reading of literature. There are now statewide, citywide, countywide, and event country-wide reading programs all over the world.Public Programs Office, American Library Association, p. 4
As Nancy Pearl, Director of the Washington Center for the Book says,
People can go for days at a time not talking to anyone outside their immediate family. There are precious few opportunities for people of different ethnic background, economic levels or ages to sit down together and discuss ideas that are important to them this project provides that opportunity.
“One Book, One Community: Planning Your Community-Wide Read”
Why The Lifelong Activist?
Books selected for a Big Read can not only draw different people together with a subject that gives us something to talk about, but also helps us to work on things of interest to us as people with hearts for justice. One of my personal struggles is that as a bivocational person in both ministry and library worlds who is heavily involved in justice work, I continue to seek out ways to manage schedule and life in ways that help me live out the life to which God has called me while also retaining my sanity and honoring commitments to family and friends.
Rettig’s book “is based on my many years’ experience as an activist and coach: work in which I learned which personal habits, thoughts and beliefs tend to help people succeed at ambitious goals, and which don’t. The Lifelong Activist encompasses all I have learned, and recasts it for use by progressive activists, organizers, educators and others.” It teaches its readers to manage their life missions, time, fears, and relationships with self and others.
Also, I don’t know about you, but my education and life experiences have too often been along the “sit down and shut up” model, rather than “stand up and speak out.” That is to say, activism and its associated patterns and behaviors neither come naturally to me, nor have they been inculcated in me via more formal educational pathways – except for educational experiences I have chosen for myself such as Gamaliel National Leadership Training and other similar experiences. If we want to build a nation of activists, we need to educate ourselves and others at all levels because life and society has proven it won’t do this for us.
As loneliness and alienation continues to attempt to impede relationships, this book gives its readers solid strategies to be clear about who we are, why we are here, what impedes us in our lives, and how to move beyond these impediments to new life. And we can read this book and work on these things together!
What do I need to do to participate?
Just get the book – it is available these ways:
How do I discuss this book with others?
Currently, T+P+A is discussing the sections of The Lifelong Activist we read week-by-week at our online book club, People of the Books. Join us there or find some friends to read and discuss with you in person! Let us know if you’re interested in starting an in-person group. Discuss online with the hashtag #TPABR19
Which chapters are we reading which weeks? Check below:
- Blumenstein, Lynn. 2007. “Community ‘Read’ on Immigration.” Library Journal 132 (11): 18. http://0-search.ebscohost.com.archway.searchmobius.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=tfh&AN=25383865&site=eds-live&scope=site.
- Ferenc, Leslie. “Adult literacy program renews love of reading; Scarborough group working to bring community together over a few good books.” Toronto Star [Toronto, Ontario], October 9, 2014, GT4. Infotrac Newsstand (accessed March 15, 2019). http://0-link.galegroup.com.archway.searchmobius.org/apps/doc/A385016549/STND?u=sain32367&sid=STND&xid=1c8877da.
- Mayo, Elisa. 2015. “One Community, One Book.” Reading Today 32 (6): 30. http://0-search.ebscohost.com.archway.searchmobius.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=102705627&site=eds-live&scope=site.
- McFann, Jane. “‘One City, One Book’: Creating Community through Reading.” Reading Today 20, no. 2 (October 2002): 24. http://0-search.ebscohost.com.archway.searchmobius.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=hlh&AN=9525537&site=eds-live&scope=site.
- Simpson, Erin J. “One City, One Book: Creating Conversation.” Books Make a Difference, n.d. (accessed March 15, 2019). http://booksmakeadifference.com/onecityonebook/
- Wikipedia contributors, “One City One Book,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=One_City_One_Book&oldid=886072437 (accessed March 15, 2019).