Living with Intention

by Harvey Hook

If you and I want to become better leaders to create a better world, then living with intention is required.

I sat at a table with ten black men on a recent Saturday morning at the Lincoln Cafe, in the King-Lincoln District of downtown Columbus. The gathering was intended to engage the stories of others different from me. At my invitation, a close African-American friend of 20 years, convened us to listen and learn from one another.

I was spurred to action a month earlier while sitting in a room of white men, I meet with on a regular basis. Several thoughts hit me:

  • I have an abundance of racially diverse relationships, and my life is better as a result.
  • As a community based non-profit, we intentionally gather ethnically diverse people, and represent their uniqueness in speakers, program participants and causes we support.
  • But, where were the men and women of color I meet with on a determined and regular basis; beyond our programs and partnerships?
  • Where were the “different-than-me-people” who could help me grow, not only by what we share in common, but also by where we are different, and at times in conflict?

“Intention: the thing you plan to do or achieve; an aim or purpose.”

I am pursuing on two fronts. With one group I’m pursuing conversations on racial, political and socioeconomic issues. They are black, I am white; they are Republican and Democrat, I am a categorization-fighting Independent; a number of them are activist organizers, I’m more of a diplomatic convener. Our backgrounds are different; I’m a small town kid from the sticks of Maine, and although I lived and worked in the inner city for 11 years; a number of them grew up in the more impoverished urban centers of Cleveland, Detroit and DC.

“Intentionality is not about knowing where you are going; It’s about going there with purpose.”- Neal Samudre

I believe there is little to learn from homogeneous groups who look and think like us. It hurts when we acquire bumps and bruises when confronted by differences in others. But if you and I want to become better leaders to create a better world, then living with intention is required.

Fourteen months ago I attended a conference in the shadow of the Los Angeles Forum, to discuss the state of race relations in the United States. To say we were a diverse group is an understatement. There were Hip Hop artists, the president of the conservative Focus on the Family organization, iconic American Civil Rights leader Dr. John Perkins, a representative from President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” program, a conservative political policy wonk, and Shane Claiborne of The Simple Way, who makes his own clothes and melts down guns and turns them into tools for use in the urban gardens of Philadelphia.

During one session, Hip Hop artist Propaganda (Jason Petty) of Humble Beast Records was interviewed by Cameron Strang, publisher of Relevant Magazine. Jason, black, grew up in a violent ethnically Mexican neighborhood and suffered discrimination by his neighbors and police. However, his uncle, a known local drug dealer, seemed to be on good terms with the police. Long story short; his uncle bribed the police to leave him alone. Based on his experience of duplicity and abuse, when the police showed up, they were just another gang, wearing uniforms, and there to discriminate and pick up bribes.

“We’re all influenced by what we see out our window.”

His window to the world is not my window. My world-view was altered that morning. I had to accommodate new information in conflict with my life history. Would I reject it or embrace it? To walk away with the willingness to see through his eyes was necessary to become a better world citizen. It begged the questions: “What else can I learn from others different than me?” “How will I use this to create a better world?

What questions does this make you ask? Wherein lies your intention?

With a second, and racially integrated group, we’ll meet on a regular basis to discover what Jesus has to say to us in a world of expanding globalization and clashing cultures. Here, we begin with the commonality of our faith; and from there seek ways to integrate our differences in ways that serve one another, our community and reflect the life of Jesus in Matthew chapter 5.

What we learn from one another makes all of us better. And with that I draw to a close with an invitation and reading assignment for you.

The Invitation: Will you risk the security of your world-view and see the world through the eyes of another? If so, then join me Thursday morning October 6, as Yvette McGee Brown, Partner at Jones Day Law Firm and first African-American woman to serve on the Supreme Court of Ohio, Chairs the 27th Annual Leadership Prayer Breakfast.

Our Keynote Speaker is Dr. John M. Perkins, born into Mississippi poverty, the son of a sharecropper, who dropped out of school after the 3rd grade. He fled to California when he was 17 after his older brother was murdered by a town Marshall. He is an iconic American Civil Rights leader, internationally known author, speaker, and teacher on issues of racial reconciliation and holistic community development.

Jordan Miller, President of Fifth Third Bank, and I spent three days with Dr. Perkins last August. Along with the leadership provided by Yvette, we invite you to experience a portion of what we encountered with Dr. Perkins while with him in Jackson, Mississippi, last summer.

To accept my invitation click here and purchase your tickets or table today.

Your Reading Assignment: Dr. Perkins’ autobiography is “Let Justice Roll Down.” It is a story of the transforming work of faith that allowed him to respond to overwhelming indignities with miraculous compassion, vision, and hope. I invite you to purchase a copy for you, and one for someone you love. PURCHASE HERE.

In the words of Dr. Perkins: “Love is the final fight.”



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