From Chaos to Community

A few months ago I took a call from Harold Vines. I had not heard from Harold since the late nineties when he came to take part in a Hope in the Cities training retreat for community leaders in Richmond. Harold told me he had seen the advance notice of The Trust Factor in Washington, DC. He had recently retired from the board of the Servant Leadership School (an outgrowth of the Church of the Saviour) in the Adams Morgan neighborhood and he wanted me to meet his friends. A few days later he introduced me to the executive director, Joseph Deck, and other colleagues. Harold said that after reading my book, “I had to ask myself, ‘Am I trustworthy?’”

Joseph Deck was immediately enthusiastic and took a copy of Trustbuilding to read. Before long he had offered the Festival Center on Columbia Avenue as a “hub” for The Trust Factor. This act of generosity has been typical of the diverse team that has come together in Washington to host this week’s activities.  Four partner organizations are giving event space without charge. Others are contributing pro bono staff time and facilitation skills. Some only met each other for the first time in recent weeks but are taking responsibility wholeheartedly. It is a creative, selfless pattern of partnership, a demonstration of trust.   


Throughout the Trust Factor week we will be in dialogue with people involved in trustbuilding in business, economics, on university campuses, and in the community. We’ll learn how people are drawing on their different faith traditions to face personal challenges and to sustain their work, and we’ll work on tools for racial healing and equity. “Civic Participation and Responsibility in Building Trust in Public Life” is the theme of the all-day session on Saturday which features a public dialogue with three remarkable leaders of both conservative and liberal backgrounds representing African American, European American, and more recent Asian immigrant communities.

What better time for Washington – and the world – to hear this message of trustbuilding? “Occupy Wall Street”, the protests in Greece, and the ongoing struggle for democracy in Arab counties all indicate a deep mistrust of existing political establishments and a disconnect between those in positions of privilege or power and the majority who feel disenfranchised.

When our advance team arrived at the Festival Center a few days ago four men were sitting in the entrance lobby. Joseph Deck introduced us as the organizers of The Trust Factor. One older African American man exclaimed: “Trust! If we could get to trust we could move from chaos to community!” It turned out the group had been studying Martin Luther King’s final book: Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?  Next Sunday King’s memorial will be unveiled on the Mall. What better tribute could we pay to this great prophet of reconciliation and justice than to commit ourselves to building a sustained trustbuilding movement on which to build a fair and inclusive America?