Motivation for the Marketplace
Motivation for the Marketplace
Info about Larry James & Central Dallas MinistriesTable of Contents for Motivation for the Marketplace

The problems are real, complex, frightening and downright difficult.
Common Problems, Common Cause

    Last week on two occasions I witnessed extremely diverse groups of people working together to address serious problems without conflict. I know this sounds unusual. We’ve grown so accustomed to nightly newscasts visually reporting on competing groups who resort to “go for the throat” tactics, that we’re surprised when we observe a determined, peaceful attempt to work things out.

    My first experience took place atop Reunion Tower in downtown Dallas. Someone invited me to attend something called “Pray Dallas.” I still don’t know who organized the event. No personal, group or political agendas surfaced during the two-hour prayer meeting. People from across the community, and from one end of the religious, racial and political spectrum to the other, attended. Various men and women offered prayers in response to topical promptings flashed on a scene. There we were. Looking out over our magnificent city with its beauty, its divisions—geographical, racial, economic, educational—black, white, brown, and yellow faces from almost every faith background, all joined in the common enterprise of faith.

    Mayor Ron Kirk, who stode into the meeting Bible in hand, challenged the group at the end of our morning to look around the room to discover the secret to finding solutions to every problem facing the city. I’ll admit praying together doesn’t present much opportunity for friction between individuals or groups, but maybe there is the best of all.

    Later that same day, I sat in on a meeting of the volunteer staff at the inner city relief organization where I work. Every Thursday morning volunteers from the community meet to discuss problems, set policy and air concerns. Of the thirty or forty people in the room, over ninety per cent are very poor. They first met each other after coming to the “food pantry” to ask for assistance. We invited them to return as volunteers. They take their jobs very seriously. There we were. Considering the challenges of another week in the city: black, white, and brown from various backgrounds, all joined by a common concern to address the needs and unique challenges created by poverty in one of the nation's richest cities.

    On this particular morning, a number of my Hispanic friends had a grievance to air. They felt they received all of the “mop details,” while white and black volunteers assumed positions of leadership and people helping. The group listened patiently. The very diverse group discussed the issue thoroughly. The group identified the ever present language barrier as a significant part of the problem. The group affirmed the Hispanic volunteers in their concern. Later in the day, I noticed white, black and brown volunteers pulling the mop detail together.

    These two experiences helped me formulate a workable strategy for managing conflict between groups whenever frustrations and injured feelings strain relationships. Step one: Talk long enough to identify a common cause. Step two: As you talk, work hard at maintaining common civility. Step three: Never give up on your common commitment to make life better for everyone concerned. The fact is, we can get along in this city, and we can do well together.

    By the way, it wouldn’t hurt to put Dallas in your prayers.


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