(the following is based on a true story… I’ll let you determine which parts may be somewhat fictional)
Last week Joanna and I met with a local designer to have a conversation about creating a brochure that would highlight all of what the organization is doing. While we were sitting in a restaurant, the artist showed us some samples of her work, including a piece that she had worked on for the Pittsburgh Promise. This particular piece was focused on those in the faith community. I scanned the brochure and saw on the back the stated hope from the Pittsburgh Promise:
“That Pittsburgh will be called a City of Truth, where once again, men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets, each with cane in hand because of age, and where the city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there”.
Immediately, I saw red.
“Plagiarism!”, I screamed at the top of my lungs, drawing the eyes of all the restaurant’s patrons. I flipped tables. Threw chairs. It was very much like Jesus clearing the temple. In the version of the story told in John’s gospel, Jesus fashions a whip. Lucky for those around me, I was very much in need of my belt (I’ve lost some weight recently). Joanna would later recall that she had never seen such fury in a man and that she feared for her very existence. She tried to calm me down, but I told her, in no uncertain terms, that those thieves at the Pittsburgh Promise must be held accountable for their treachery.
Justice had to served. Never mind that the founder of the Project is also now the director of Promise and that his vision for the city would naturally remain consistent. Never mind that our vision comes from the Bible which is pretty much as “public domain” as you can get. Heads had to roll! I picked up my phone, knowing that I had my team of high priced lawyers only a speed dial away (dial 6 for “high priced lawyers”) when I had a moment of clarity…
“what if it’s not such a terrible thing that our vision would appear on the brochure of another organization? what if it’s not our vision, but God’s vision? What if a vision isn’t something to be hoarded or gloated over but to be shared?”
What would it look like if everyone bought into our vision for what the city should be? What would it mean if churches across the greater Pittsburgh area shared the same vision of a city of truth, a city of justice, dignity, safety, and love? What would it look like if we saw our vision statement plastered all over the city because organizations bought into it in such a way that they wanted to work toward those ends? What would it look like if even “secular” organizations bought into our very biblical vision because it’s just so compelling?
As I’ve spoken with most of our staff and many on our board over the last month, I find that what keeps us working on this Project of ours is that our hearts are stirred by the vision. It captures our imagination and calls us to dream big dreams. It is no small vision. It is bigger than any one of us, bigger than any of our agendas or programs. It is a Kingdom vision. It’s not just our job to live into the vision. It’s not enough to share the vision. We have to give it away. in business terms, the chief product and export of the Pittsburgh Project must be vision. A contagious, viral vision that spreads across the city is what I imagine. A vision so compelling that churches want it in their bulletins, organizations want it on their annual reports and restaurants want it on their menus. It’s a vision for the whole city, not just for us. May we be generous in sharing this vision with others, so that their hearts might be stirred and that we might together take steps toward becoming a beloved community, a city of truth.
*full disclosure: I believe my exact response when I saw our vision statement on the Promise’s brochure was “huh, that’s funny.”