August 23, 2018

Fruit of the Spirit in Ormond Park Village

In Galatians, one of the letters in the New Testament, the fruit of the Spirit is described. Qualities are named by which one can know that the Holy Spirit is present in one’s endeavors: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

With some good friends and neighbors, my husband and I have been involved in a challenging conflict involving a powerful public entity. Last year the former mayor of our city arrogantly destroyed a park used by children, teens, and older folks in order to build an expensive and unnecessary road to a failing golf course. He did this without public input and in secret, hiding his intentions from the public bodies whose input was required until it was too late to stop the destruction.

We took the mayor and his administration to court. But in what I consider to be a grave injustice, the judge “temporarily” allowed the permanent road to be built, claiming it could be torn out if our neighborhood group prevailed.

We continue to fight this decision, and we have fought hard. Yet our neighborhood kids do not yet have a playground, promised by the new mayor. Nor do we have a settlement, also initiated by the new mayor. 

There are some things that have been said, and some stances taken, that one might interpret to be intimidating. Yet I don't feel intimidated. I feel the strength of the Spirit beneath me, holding me up. And I also know that following the Holy Spirit does not always mean you win in the world of courts and governments. Failing to achieve the outcome for which one fought, in faith, and with all one’s might, can be a bitter pill. How does one find the strength to bear the injustice of it?

I know deeply that those fruits of the Spirit named in Galatians are signs of spiritual accompaniment. They are signs of Grace. So, to counteract the taste of the bitter pill, I have been looking for signs of Grace in this work of saving Ormond Park.  This is what I’ve found.
  1. We have acted with a fierce love for the children of the neighborhood who lost their playground, and for the creatures of the woodland who lost their homes to the bulldozers. 
  2. We have experienced deep joy in coming to know our neighbors better – how creative, committed, kind, and generous they are!
  3. We have endeavored to show kindness in our dealings with all the city officials involved in the destruction of our beloved park, from the tree-cutters and heavy machine operators to whom we offered early morning donuts and coffee, to the city attorneys who presented specious justifications for the destruction.
  4. We have practiced generosity by contributing our time to this cause, and our money to cover the significant legal expenses.
  5. All of us involved in this project felt a clear call to advocate for the trees, animals, and children of our neighborhood, and to stand up to the bullying of the former mayor. We have been faithful to that call.
  6. And we’ve definitely practiced patience, gentleness, and self-control in the face of intimidation and stonewalling, rather than screaming with rage and making loud demands!

I’m grateful to become aware of these ways in which we are building the Beloved Community among us, here, in Ormond Park Village.

There continue to be ways in which my personal reliance on Spirit is still sorely challenged. I can feel so much hateful anger toward the former mayor, for those who attempt to intimidate with glaring and side remarks, for the judge who allowed the road to be built, and for a system that rewards those with political and financial power, while disempowering regular folks. Peace seems out of reach.

But look and see! We have begun to develop a different kind of community here, a Beloved Community built on human being, one that does not depend on mayors and city councils, on votes and courts, on political power or economic gain. We are growing a community in the shade of that same tree that bears the fruit of the Spirit. That gives me a great deal of hope. And a great deal of gratitude. And peace, finally, begins to take root.