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No More Ms. Nice Guy

“…We believed we could change the world. And you know what? We did…But we’re not finished!” -John Kerry’s acceptance speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention

Helloooo, Riverwest! It’s great to be back! I’ve spent the last year on the other side of the river, working in a nice big brick building. Oh, how I missed Riverwest. I missed the neighborhood; the cynicism, the optimism. I missed the long discussions that had no need for conclusions or action outcome lists. I missed the simple things — shopping in the alleys on moving day, visits to the free box. I missed the dreaming, the doing, and the human-scale projects that grow out of small groups of sincere people doing what it is within their ability to do. So I said a little prayer, or maybe had a dreamtime conversation with my fairy godmother. Please, I said, let me come back to the neighborhood somehow. Surround the situation with good things for everyone involved, make a place for me to put my energy, make it somehow sustainable, and I’ll do it. In a heartbeat. Then my good friend Sonya got a job that is commensurate with her abilities — an offer she couldn’t refuse — and my wish was granted. She put two-plus solid years of high-quality energy, attention, talent and training into making this little newspaper something really special. So when she left, there was a need, and enough just compensation so that I wouldn’t have to live on the street. So I jumped, happily, and I’m back in the ‘hood. But what an act to follow. Can I really do the Riverwest Currents, now? Last time I guest-edited this paper it was 16 pages, I knew everybody involved, and they knew me. Today, this paper is a little juggernaut, steaming along under the power of many people. It’s a challenge getting to know everybody, cultivating relationships, and learning how we can all work together. What a challenge to do all that, and write, too. But I’m willing to take on the task, and I’m excited about the opportunities that surround us in our neighborhood, as we communicate with each other, come to know one another, and build our strength as a powerful, intelligent, courageous group of people. I hope the Riverwest Currents, under my editorship, can further this process. A challenge for Riverwest That said, let me tell you what I believe my real job is going to be around here. I plan to make you uncomfortable as often as I can. If that’s not your cup of tea, I suggest you make this the last editorial of mine that you read. I plan to challenge this neighborhood, to point out our shortcomings and opportunities, to chasten and hasten like an Old Testament prophet. We’ve done a lot of good things here, but as Candidate Kerry says, “We can do better.” With this writing, I want to institute a new editorial-page feature, called the “Editorial Challenge.” Every so often I will choose something in the neighborhood that I believe needs our attention, and I will describe the situation and give a call to action and a vision. After that, I will do my best, through networking, community building, consultation, direct action, and plain old roll-up-my-sleeves hard work, to make something happen around that challenge. Obviously, I won’t be able to do everything myself. I’m prepared to be told, by words, actions, or the lack of action, that my ideas are either great, or not worth the paper they’re printed on. But whatever happens, it’s not going to stop me from issuing challenges to Riverwest. Because before I set down the tools of this life my hands, my brain, my courage I want to use every bit of spirit I have to do, with a whole heart, what comes to me to do. So get ready, Riverwest. A lot of us have spent a lot of time saying we want to change the world. And we have. And we’re not finished yet.