Friday, November 19, 2010

America's Second Finest

A few weeks ago a poll was released that suggested that San Diego is NOT America’s Finest City. Actually, we came in second. We were beat out once again by the Big Apple.

However, there is a curious footnote to this Silver Medal performance. New York, the most desirable place to live, is also…wait for it…wait for it…is the number one LEAST desirable place to live! As it turns out, this scientific survey was simply asking people where they most wanted to live and where they most don’t want to live. So in my mind you can’t be the best and the worst and win.

So let’s look at some of the raw data*:

Mean travel time to work:
New York = 39.4 minutes; San Diego = 22.6 minutes

Acreage of major outdoor space:
New York's Central Park =
843; San Diego's Balboa Park = 1200

Average temperature in January
New York = 39 degrees; San Diego = 66 degrees

Okay I have to admit that I envy their public transportation system and lament our dependence on the car. And goodness know, the Yankees could let us have just one of those 27 World Series championships or the Giants one of those three Super Bowl wins.

But when all is said and done, we have some things in San Diego that you can find no where else: slow mo skating down the pier in Pacific Beach, watching the ships pass by Cabrillo Point, more evening stars, great sunsets, and if we are lucky some of those sunsets will include a green flash.

So for me it remains America’s finest city. I will hang in there with the Padres and the Chargers. I will continue to give thanks for all my neighbors.

*from the October 22, 2010 issue of the San Diego Union Tribune

Friday, November 5, 2010

Leadership in a Time of Fear

Two years ago our nation went to the polls and voted for change. On Tuesday, November 2nd, we seemingly did the same thing in reverse. Two years ago, we said to a group of folks, "have a go at it." Tuesday we said that we were going to let others have a try.

I actually think that people of all political persuasions should be deeply concerned about this fickle, and I would add, fearful electorate. Two years, 24 months, 104 weeks, 730 day is not enough time to make a judgment about the quality of leadership. Indeed, suggesting that it is causes leaders to settle for band aids and quick fixes rather than long-term transformational changes.

I sense the same thing happening in our churches. I will often be with a congregation that is highly anxious about their future. In many cases, the people are dealing with significant problems that developed over a long period of time, sometimes decades—just like our elected leaders. These anxious congregants or vestry members want the problem fixed quickly. Often, their perceived quick fix is the new priest. I find myself offering a bit of wisdom that I inherited. If it took some many years to get into this mess, then feel free to take the same amount of time fixing it.

It is my conviction that we are addicted to the quick fix in our political life, our social life, and our religious life. Fearful, we adulate emerging leaders, blame them, and then attack them. In both our civic life and our church life, we have serious problems to solve. When Britain faced the Nazi menace, the king called on Churchill to form a government. It was, however, a coalition government. I wonder if we treated these times of great economic travail as a similar time and committed to coalition, we might actually solve problems.

What if the president had a cabinet that truly looked like America, including Republican, Democrat, and neither? What if we had coalitions of theological diversity actually come together to plan a missional future? We actually may move our social order and religious order to a completely new level. Maybe this is how to lead in a time of fear.