Let the seeds grow!

March 1, 2013 - 9:00am -- Sarah Mundell

EXPO 2013 in Chicago will be a laboratory for positive change

A renewed humanity? Sounds like a big project. You’ll need a lot of people, and it will take some time, and probably you will need a few miracles along the way — especially if you think you have to change the whole world at once, and if you think you are alone. But you don’t. And you are not.

Mary, a school nurse in Brooklyn, found some of her coworkers attracted to her commitment to building unity in their school. After three years working together, her group proposed an interdisciplinary, holistic approach to conflict resolution among staff members, encouraging them to listen more to one another and to consider the ideas and opinions of one another with respect. The proposal was accepted by their director and shared with the school’s whole staff.

Carol is a neighborhood block captain who took her mayor’s request to make of every neighborhood a family and developed the Art of Caring, which she shared with her own village. It encouraged people to take the first step in reaching out to others, sharing their stories with one another and forming positive relationships. Initiatives ranged from raking an elderly neighbor’s yard to addressing the housing needs of residents. The program is so successful that other towns are asking how they can replicate it.

Stephen pursued one of his dreams right after graduating from high school: he went for one year to volunteer at Bukas Palad (“Open hands” in Tagalog), a social project in Manila, Philippines. “I want to give back to those who have fewer opportunities than I do,” he explained. “That means more to me than starting college right away.” When he returned, Stephen and his friends launched fundraising projects to sustain the families in Bukas Palad. “We know that we are one family,” he said.

These three stories are not hypothetical. They are real-life examples of how the Focolare spirituality of unity has had an impact on the lives of those who live it, and on how they influence the environments around them.
Focolare EXPO 2013, to be held in Chicago, April 27–28, will be a showcase of what has actually resulted from people living for unity in their various fields on a daily basis. It highlights an approach based on principles such as the Golden Rule (Do to others what you would have them do to you) and founded on individual dignity and mutual respect. The resulting initiatives are attempts to respond to the deepest needs of each situation and to build a sense of renewed humanity for all involved. Interactive case studies will provide a starting point for constructive dialogue about how loving, as an “art,” can be implemented to influence the quality of relationships for the better.
Exploring the theme “Building a Renewed Humanity,” participants will delve into the specifics of change in their own areas of interest, as well as presentations that bring together the whole group to synthesize the results. There will be workshops reflecting eight major aspects of cultural life: 1) health and recreation; 2) law and ethics; 3) education; 4) faith communities; 5) the arts and society; 6) media and communications; 7) civic engagement; 8) business and economy.

“Positive change does not happen just by wishing for it, or according to some template or formula,” said Amy Uelmen, author and lecturer at Georgetown University Law School and one of the panelists for the event. “Nevertheless, successful initiatives have three essential elements: core values that people can share, no matter what their background; renewed relationships based on those values; and solutions developed for each specific context, based on these values and relationships.”

“EXPO 2013 will be a kind of laboratory for positive change rather than just a set of lectures or open-ended discussions,” added Tom Masters, who is chairing the
education workshop.

The idea for EXPO came about in 2011, when Focolare President Maria Voce visited the U.S. and Canada and saw that there were many seeds that had been planted, experiences that had begun on a smaller level. She proposed an event that would highlight these projects and give people the chance to come together and see how to make these seeds continue to grow through exchange of ideas and increased collaboration.

For information, visit expo2013.us or register at event.focolare.us.
— With John Chesser, Tom Masters and Amy Uelmen