Puerto Rico… I am one of your sons.
Could you imagine a new nation? Could you imagine a new day? Would it be possible that we could rise together, take the best of our past and shoulder on to the future with a new outlook on how life could be here on the island?
I see armies of young adults with gladness in their hearts and passion in their bellies desirous to positively disrupt the way business is done. I see a Puerto Rico looking to catapult itself into a new dawn where the imagination of young and old metamorphosizes into one of entrepreneurial purpose. I see a Puerto Rico where young men and women, old timers and ladies move away from simply working to live and be happy, to a vision where our work becomes an adventure on bettering our island from the inside out.
We have everything we need. Puerto Rico is special and unlike anywhere in the world. A land steeped in a unique culture. A people who are red, hot and full of life. We have natural resources and an agricultural heritage that could be second to none. What we need is men and women of stronger conviction to move on out from allowing the days to pass by, seize the bull by the horns and say to themselves that the ‘buck stops here.’ We need new generations of impassioned servant leaders who are not timid to go forth and put their shoulder to the plow. We need less employee-mindsets and more champion-mindsets filled with imagination, with vision and clarity of purpose. We need young entrepreneur-farmers who are ready to step forward onto a greater stage. We need business men and women who initiate new social enterprises that grab hearts and minds. We need servant leaders who are not afraid of disdaining who gets the credit for the great work that could be in front of us.
I ask you and myself, is our life simply about working nine to five, exercising, eating right, worshiping God and having strong families? All that is fine, yet, I believe there is more to life than this. I believe that each one of us has the ability and capacity to shine in ways unseen before. Bring God, bring family, bring the community, but by all means, bring your passion, your imagination and your sense of adventure into refashioning what Puerto Rico exemplifies.
Imagine a land where its sons and daughters return to the land to cultivate it with their bare hands,
sweat and tears. Imagine a land where the city businesswoman becomes a social entrepreneur, placing herself in service to her community in real-time. Imagine an island-life where our music, our dance and our children emulate the fire that grows from within.
But none of this can happen if we think it is someone else’s job. None of this can become reality if we shuck the responsibility of a new adventure to someone else. Is it the governor’s job to lead on this? Is it the job of our mayors to break forth a new island-perspective? Let them lead, but they will not save the day. They alone will not be able to bring about positive social change. That job rests solely on the shoulders of you and me. Normal people without job titles.
Attitudes are contagious. You can be a small ship in a big ocean and still cause a tremendous, positive impact on the community if you are clear on your purpose and you bring epic commitment. That means that you are clear on why you may take on a social endeavor and then you become consistent about it without giving up. Surely, it is possible to make a decent living and also beautify your community from the inside out. We just need to care with our hearts on our sleeves.
Where can one start?
One fellow can start a skateboard school for typical kids and those with special needs, like autism and Downs Syndrome. Another can create sports and arts programs at the local park, such as Parque Barbosa in Santurce, right next to the Luis Llorens Torres housing project. Still another can reach out to the poor and uneducated and sit with them until the heart surges up ideas on how to bring hope to them. It is not rocket science, but it takes the same kind of conviction to continue on.
Hope is needed. Many have lost hope and are just living day by day. Hero’s are needed. You are needed to be the hero. Don’t be ashamed to shine. Don’t be ashamed to shed tears for each other. My inclination is to walk into the life of people who have hit rock bottom and stay there with them, shoulder to shoulder until we both rise together. I know what it is like to feel like no one cares for you. I know what it feels like to be forgotten, dismissed and left behind.
In San Juan, much of the middle-class and affluent live in gated communities that bring a modicum of peace and security. There is nothing wrong with wanting to live in peace and safeguarding ourselves, families and property. But what else do we keep out? How do we distance ourselves from the community when we cordon off ourselves from the responsibility of uplifting the poor and needy?
How do you help people who are not asking you to help them, yet greatly need the assistance?
If you don’t know where to start, walk into the housing projects. Just walk around. Talk with the moms and the dads, say hello to the happy children. Begin new relationships with each other founded on a solidarity that is based on altruistic love, hope and a commitment that says, “I won’t go away friend. I am your keeper.” You are black, I am brown, and he is white, but inside we all bleed red. Inside we all have hearts and spirits that are made equally in importance.
Puerto Rico will not have a savior. It will have an army of saviors, from different creeds, religions and skin colors. There will not just be one hero, but a cavalcade of passionate islanders who astound each other in not giving up for each other.
Like an ocean that is made up of drops of water with each drop being precious, the communities from Mayaguez to Carolina, from Juncos to Yabucoa, from Guaynabo to Aguadilla, from Rincon to Loiza, from Utuado to Santurce and from Ponce to Culebra can rise up to endeavor the strengthening of their own communities. Start small and in time you will be big. Only don’t give up. Don’t let the heat of the sun whittle your hope away. Don’t let the lack of money dissipate your passion and certainly do not allow naysayers to rain on your own vision on how you can be a source of empowerment to others.
As for me, I would like to have more time with you. It is my desire to form new relationships on the island and to show you just what I mean when I say bring the heart and put it on the sleeve. Right
now I have two on-going community projects in full-gear operating in the cities of Stamford, Connecticut and South Norwalk, Connecticut. I have my sights set on Harlem this Fall 2016. None of this is easy. Forming and sustaining relationships, growing hope and being my brothers keeper. Yet the fire within me will not let me simply look to my own lot. My Lord, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings did something to me. He has drawn me away to his own purpose. … I do not look back, but press forward, even with tears in my eyes and even if I find myself alone. I will do that which is right. I will ‘not go silently into that good night,’ but will be present for the call to be their with my fellow brothers and sisters so that we finally both begin to rise together.