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12/20/2007

Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal forging friendships


By Teddy Allen
The (Shreveport) Times

Friends of mine who are wiser than I am - it's a big club - hang their hats on the belief that the secret of a good and decent life is relationships. They are the most peaceful and happy people I know.

They believe that if your relationship with your Maker is right, it will lead to purposeful and proper relationships with your fellow travelers, and with yourself.

It's a simple theory, but not easy. People are only people, and each of us brings a quirk or two or 20 to the party. But we're the only people we've got, and this is the only world we've got. Might as well make the best of it.

And the way to do that? Get along. By helping each other, we help ourselves. If you are successful and do well, it helps me. If you do well, we all do well. No man is an island. "» That theory is the opposite of what seems to be the natural way of human beings, which is the same as in the animal world: eat or get eaten. The way to get ahead is to step on the guy in front of you. Every man for himself. Objectivism, and all that.

An organization like Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal holds to the first theory: relationships forged one by one, a genuine and common caring for each other, are the key to strong neighborhoods, which leads to strong cities, strong nations, and a strong world.

It's hard to come up with an argument against that. Progress is slow, but certain. Though it's now having an impact internationally, the 13-year-old Community Renewal effort began here and has had obvious success in some of Shreveport-Bossier's most impoverished neighborhoods, where "battlegrounds and trash heaps have been turned into playgrounds and beautiful gardens," SBCR coordinator and founder Mack McCarter said. "Lives are being transformed there."

The world will get a closer look at SBCR next week when it's honored as the PetroSun Independence Bowl 2007 Omar N. Bradley "Spirit of Independence Award" recipient for work that symbolizes "the spirit of freedom and independence on which our country was founded."

Bradley had a war to fight. McCarter says that we do too, that defeating "fear, ignorance and evil within our own cities" will take "an army of carting partners marching together."

Sounds grand and superficial, but only to lazy people. We all agree that you can eat an elephant, but you have to do it one bite at a time. People who've walked it say the first trip in a long journey is a single step. We're impatient, so it's hard for people like us - and we're all people like us, the only people we've got - to take things one step and one person at a time.

But that's how the war is won, beachhead by beachhead. And it sure is a lot of work.

Some of that work will be showcased during the Independence Bowl on Sunday night, Dec. 30, on ESPN. There will be a 4-minute presentation of the Spirit of Independence Award on the field at halftime, including a 1-minute video about Community Renewal shown in the stadium. Paid for by sponsors and not from SBCR's general operating budget, a commercial about the organization will air several times on ESPN during the game.

SBCR's Web site,
http://www.sbcr.us/, will soon include a new nine-minute video about Community Renewal and currently lists volunteer opportunities and latest news. One opportunity especially timely: Most of the Friendship Houses are having Christmas parties this week. If you wish to sponsor a party as an individual, church, civic organization or business, call SBCR at (318) 425-3222. The focus is on the children active in the Kids Club or Youth Club throughout the year. You can make Christmas brighter for these children in some of our town's struggling neighborhoods.

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