EDITOR'S NOTE: LYNN CLAPP WAS THE SPEAKER AT THE MAYOR'S PRAYER BREAKFAST ON WEDNESDAY. THIS IS A CONDENSED VERSION OF HIS SPEECH.
Many people have the idea that Belleville could be a special place, perhaps even magical in its appeal to the world, and have been working hard to make that a reality. I believe we are on the right path, but we still have work to do.
In the past year I have learned that we cherish and share the vision of a better Belleville, whether from the west end or downtown, whether from church or school or even City Council. Yet conflict continues to pose barriers to our collective journey.
Ten thousand years ago there was a great cataclysm, whose reverberations are felt even today. We call it the "separation," brought on by the choices of Adam and Eve to split from God. I'm always mindful of this concept of separation. But on the very day we separated from God, he gave us a path to return to him.
Healing the separation requires much more than respecting God. It means that we must also heal our relationships with our fellow humans. Is not God's essential question to us: "For every day of the rest of your life, what can you do to get back to me?"
In Belleville, why not start right now together on the path to heal the separation? To do so, we must have an understanding of the tools God has given us.
Let's start with love. If you can believe that "every human response is either an expression of love or a call for love," it will color your world in a much brighter way, because it simplifies the understanding of human need and makes legitimate this Ravi Shankar quote: "Love is not an emotion; it is your very existence."
Forgiveness is the next step. There is great power in letting go and freedom in moving on. Jesus would certainly tell his believers, "You are always focusing on suffering, but you are missing the point -- it is all about the resurrection, which is my return to God." Forgiving others unconditionally and forgiving ourselves are key.
And what about those people who will never ever say they are sorry to you? Robert Brault has a clever answer: "Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got."
As a third step, we should all subscribe to the notion of abundance, which suggests there is no limit to what we can give because we will always get it back. With abundance, there is no need to restrict others from the benefits everyone should get or from the opportunity to participate. Middle class people tend to put great emphasis on succeeding financially and collecting things. We can learn something from families of poverty. They live in the here and now and listen to each other's stories. That is healing the separation.
So what is holding us back? Simply, it is fear. Fear causes people to make up stories in their heads that are not real. It causes attack for fear of counterattack. But here is the good news: Fear is an illusion -- it is not real. Love is the only reality, and love is letting go of fear.
So let's bring it down to earth, to us right now. If you are here for the same reason I am, to make Belleville a better place and celebrate our common focus, then ask yourself as I will: "What am I doing that keeps the separation going" and "what am I willing to do to heal the separation?" "How can I apply the spirit of forgiveness in making peace with my enemies and detractors?" "How can I ascribe to the theory of abundance to make sure everyone has a voice?"
To bolster our efforts, we already have the Belleville Achieves Strength in Character that focuses on building community character. There are no politics involved. We now have the Community Development Network that has enjoined neighborhood groups, churches, schools, government and business in determining a common vision. Any citizen is welcome and encouraged to lend his voice and his efforts. There are no politics allowed. People can be part of the dream by going to the "Imagine Belleville" website and submitting their hopes for a truly magical Belleville.
The Beatles sang, "There's nothing we can do that can't be done, nothing we can sing that can't be sung; It's easy! All you need is love!"
Truly, that is all we need.
Lynn Clapp is assistant superintendent at Belleville School District 118 and an associate with Vertical Performance, an organizational improvement company.