Opening Words from Sun. January 14 by Clark Hotaling: “The Power of Community”

Good morning. For those that I haven’t had the opportunity to meet yet, my name is Clark Hotaling. I started coming here just about 1 year ago and became a member last Fall.

My wife and I recently binged watched the 4-part Netflix series ‘Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones’. Author Dan Buettner takes us around the world to five unique communities where people live extraordinarily long and vibrant lives. At each stop, he dives into the community to see what unique characteristics they exhibit that might explain why they are a ‘Blue Zone’—Communities where members live well into old age.

It is a fascinating journey and there are many commonalities between each community. Without spoiling too much of the show, one set of common characteristics kept screaming at me as I knew I’d be talking to all of you at the beginning of the New Year. The people in all 5 communities he studied share strong common values-AND SHOW UP- and all had a deep sense of purpose. The power of those communities was amazing…and, not only did they live longer than most, they were healthier, more active, took care of each other, and HAPPY to be living such long and meaningful lives.

So, I could stop here. What is more important than happiness and longevity? I’ll tell you what I think is equally important—contributing to positive social change.

When you hear the word ‘Change’, what comes to mind?

  • Change is Hard?
  • Change Takes Time?
  • Change is Uncomfortable?
  • Positive change is impossible?

I found a ton of quotes about Change that really cracked me up. Here are a few:

  • “The less he understands something, the more firmly he believes in it.”
  • “Of course there is always resistance, always a drag on movement toward better things. The dead hand of the past clutches us by way of living people who are too frightened to accept change.”
  • “People don’t change. The world carries on spinning inexorably around but people don’t spin with it. They dig their heels into the shifting sand and cling on for dear life.”

So, how can we move forward towards positive social change. One thing is certain, without COMMUNITY, without the POWER that can come with COMMUNITY, positive change almost certainly will not occur. The way I look at things, for Positive Social Change to occur, 4 things must happen:

  1. First comes Education/Knowledge/and Understanding there is an issue or problem which translates to Empathy
  2. Secondly, Personal Commitment – We have to decide this is important to me, so this is what I’m personally committed to do about it
  3. Third, we need to break down the systems and laws that are keeping the status quo
  4. And finally, we move towards some semblance of Societal Acceptance or The New Norm

Steps 3 and 4 have to be done by communities…people connecting and coming together with shared values and beliefs to do the hard, hard work to break down and replace the systems preventing change and spreading the message thus moving the needle towards societal acceptance.

Which of these would have been possible without Strong Communities rolling up their sleeves?

  • Gay Marriage
  • Women Suffrage
  • Safe Food and Water
  • Integration/Civil Rights/Voting Rights
  • Selma, the March on Washington
  • And so on…

And what areas are hot topics today that without Community…without coming together with common values and beliefs…reaching out to those that may need to be enlightened and bringing us together to force change need to be addressed?

  • Living wages and paid time off
  • Affordable Housing
  • Universal Healthcare
  • Protecting all…regardless of how they identify
  • Climate Change
  • Changes to our Gun Laws
  • I could go on….

But, without Community, without the power we build within communities through our relationships, I contend there will be little or no change…for the good—and we really will have no one to blame but ourselves. Sitting on the sidelines is simply not an option. However, with the Power we know Communities can have, we have a chance. The importance of a purpose-filled life and a sense of belonging AND being active, IS the path forward.

It is impossible to do it all…so, within your community that shares your values—find what you love, do the work….and SHOW UP. Let’s continue to make the world a better place for as many people as possible.

I’m glad I found you all!
Thank you.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.