Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Strong and Weak

Community building requires a paradoxical mix of strength and weakness. Andy Crouch in his book describes the paradox in a 2 x 2 chart that depicts the need for increased authority and increased vulnerability to create flourishing. As I read the book a second time I see this paradox at work within public transportation.  I witness the benefits and the constraints that riding the bus has in the life of our community.  I see the urgent need to improve the public transit system as a means to improve economic mobility.

My own authority comes to mind when I realize it’s a privilege to choose my vocation and have the financial security to take risks professionally. The book defines true authority as “the capacity for meaningful action.” I am lately more grateful for how I am able to learn new skills and take on a challenge. I see passengers exercising their authority through acts of kindness and mutual support of fellow riders. I see their fortitude and resilience as they daily ride in a system that affords few amenities. I see how an infrequent and often unreliable system subjugates riders robbing them of authority.

Crouch defines vulnerability as "exposure to meaningful risk." Becoming a bus drivers has caused me to be afraid and out of my comfort zone, or vulnerable. It causes me to be grateful for the passengers who have come to my aid with the reassurance they have given me. I see exposure to risk in the suffering of the young and frail in the toxic environment of the transit center full of second-hand smoke and oil spills. I see the anxiety of passengers when connections are missed, causing them to be late for jobs that are not sympathetic to the whims of the system.  I hear their complaints about routes that don't have weekend service constraining them to either being stranded altogether or using costly alternatives to reach low-paying jobs.

I recommend Peter Crouch's book Strong and Weak because of its penetrating look at community flourishing. You will likely be shocked to learn that the act of withdrawing is the cruel opposite of flourishing.  In Winston-Salem, we must see bus riders' suffering and stop exploiting them from our privileged car-centric perspective.  We must invest in public transportation as a community asset, thereby promoting community development and economic mobility as a social justice issue, so that more of our residents can flourish.

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