In the King James version of the bible it is written in proverbs 29:18, where there is no vision, the people perish. The bible also speaks of Joshua and Caleb having a positive picture of the Promised Land, but the Israelites refused to make this vision theirs. As a result, they were destined to wander in the desert until all that generation perished.
During the past two decades Austin residents have repeatedly rejected persons with ideas and dreams for a better community, instead giving in to their fears and the political/religious cabal that supports the status quo. Recently, at a meeting regarding the revitalization of North Avenue, Division Street and Chicago Avenue Alderman Isaac Carothers of the 29th Ward refused to accept the notion that Austin residents needed to control the land on those three streets as the first step towards a new vision for this community.
His personal lack of vision prevented him from seeing a situation where African Americans with the appropriate financial support could build a grand community that would be a Chicago gem. Carothers implied that even though 80 percent of Austin is black, these residents could not act unless they had the permission of white people living outside of Austin, but still in the 29th Ward.
This lack of vision is not limited to politicians; there are also the community organization leaders, scholars and preachers. In fact, in the past five years of the Austin Labor of Love project, which took place the Saturday before last, most black church leaders have not lent a helping hand to make certain that God’s vision of decent housing for the elderly in Austin would be served.
It is this lack of a dream by leaders and members of the Austin community that is the basis for Austin’s school children having low test scores, young men and women standing on street corners selling drugs, unnecessary violence in our streets and the decline of Austin’s major business streets.
But there is hope for Austin because of persons like Cynthia Williams and Jean Jackson, individuals who understand, as George Barna in his book The Power of Vision says, that vision is not about maintaining the status quo, that vision becomes a bold reason for living. It will challenge you to do things you have never done before and empower you to serve others while forcing you to focus on changing other people.
Mr. Barna also points out that the pursuit of your vision will oftentimes take years. In fact the vision might outlive you. Look at Bethel New Life and the vision of Mary Nelson to transform the people and the West Side of Chicago. Mary’s vision continues to be the guiding light for the organization as it moves on without her at the head.
Rick Warren, in his book The Purpose Driven Life sees vision as purpose. He argues that a clearly defined vision or purpose causes people to become united and builds up their morale. It also reduces frustration, allows a group to become focused, so that they can stay on target. A clear purpose, Warren believes, attracts cooperation and gives you the tool to evaluate how you are doing.
Rev. Kiryjon Caldwell challenged a group of college graduates in 1999 “to have a vision so great that it makes your enemies scratch their heads and think you are crazy.”
At the revitalization meeting mentioned above it was said that Austin should remember the words of Daniel Burnham, “Make no small plans,” because they will not excite the imagination. However, the planning consultant for the City of Chicago criticized this thought, since he knew he was dealing with black people who see the giants in the Promised Land and run in fear, seeking the safety and protection of small ideas.