The Commonplace #3

To see differently, to see better, more fully, more deeply.  It seems to me that this is a practice, an ongoing work.  To pursue the good, we need to learn to see not only possibility but also the immediate present in all its richness and complexity.  

  • We have written some here about looking for a community’s assets in addition to its deficiencies.  In a chat with colleagues the University of Tennessee’s Institute for Public Service, we learned about the partnership between the University and the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development to conduct statewide listening sessions and asset-based community maps and plans across the state.  One focus was to respond to communities in distress as seen by unemployment rate, per capita income, or poverty rate and to help those places find their strengths and build on them. 
  • In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard offers much to consider on seeing and its value:  “ The secret of seeing is, then the pearl of great price.”
  • One person who seems rich in her ability to see is Muriel Adelman.  Muriel  is 87 and lives in Riner, Virginia.  Each day she scans her grass for four-leaf clovers, finding some each day, finding about 1,000 per year.  As she puts it, 

“Maybe I take more time than most people.  I look closer. I don’t give up. And then I start seeing ’em — one here, one over there. Anything you do, keep at it and you’ll get better at it.”

  • One thing some of us with continuing incomes and stable situations may not see as much is the pain and suffering of those whose lives will really be disrupted by the coronavirus, not only from illness but also from the devastating effects to livelihood, security, and income.  Miguel Aguirre was trying to figure out how to keep making money to feed himself, his wife, and their two girls amidst the San Francisco Bay area’s shelter in place restrictions.  As he told an AP reporter, “If we don’t work, we don’t eat.”