Time to stop going ’round and ’round


Recently, three people told me something I did not expect to hear: You can be too upbeat.

Not that upbeat is a bad thing. But, said one, don’t forget about the very real issues that dog us.

I don’t think that’s possible. Poverty, blight, crime, addiction, and gangs are hard to ignore.

But I get the point: Be an optimist, but not a sap. One person put it this way: Tell us what you don’t like about Toledo.

OK, here’s my answer: Too much talk, too little action.

Whether the issue is opening pools this summer, or the condition of the streets, or the biggest issue of all — jobs for central-city young people — we need less talk and more program.

This brings me to last weekend’s celebration of “compassion” in Toledo.

It began with a declaration by local government leaders last Friday. It continued with a sort of compassion fair at SeaGate Convention Centre — displays and artwork and networking. And it ended with a multifaith banquet at Lourdes University, with a brilliant and practical keynote address by the Rev. James Bacik. His talk pointed in a direction we need to go: action.

Let me be clear: The area has officially committed to the compassionate movement and as Father Bacik said, that’s great.

The first step in becoming polite, or more open-minded, or more well-read is a resolution.

But, as we all know, that’s just a first step. The real transformation comes in the actual practice — the doing. You may pledge to lose weight. Without a plan of action, you stay fat. You cannot talk your way to transformation.

To put it in a way Pope Francis might: You gain more compassion for the poor by working in a soup kitchen than by going to a seminar on poverty, or even offering prayers for the poor.

That doesn’t mean the seminars or prayers don’t help. But there’s no substitute for action.

And that’s what we need now.

In recent months I have written about the Community Coalition, the Organizers, and Aspire. We can add to that list the compassionate community movement. They are all fantastic. Because maybe we are not all naturally compassionate. We need to be taught, sensitized.

But at some point, we need to move or we wind up in a cul-de-sac, going ’round and ’round recalibrating our sensitivities, and perhaps congratulating ourselves on our ever heightening, but eventually empty, awareness.

Time to get out of the cul-de-sac and onto the highway.

We can start with a CDC to create a small business, then another, and another. Any one of the aforementioned groups could start that CDC. Our models are Nueva Esperanza Community Credit Union and what the Cleveland Clinic has done with employee-owned, “evergreen” co-ops in Cleveland.

Maybe the first business is a downtown fresh grocery store that would feature products from our urban gardens. Kroger isn’t going to do it for us. And neither is talk.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact him at: or 419-724-6266.