It was a damp and cloudy day in Federal Way. The town’s people came together to light the annual holiday tree as an acknowledgment of the seasonal holidays celebrating joy, a desire for more light, and the year’s darkest day yet to come.
The words spoken remind us that it is a season of hope, reflection, and being “one” as a community. Hot chocolate, cookies, and candy canes are shared, hugs and handshakes exchanged, and somehow as we leave the scene of the light we feel the same.
We return to our homes having gained no insight of the reason for the season. We feel the rhythm of our plight being ignored. We are living in dark and democracy-challenged times and are used to hearing the refrain — hope, and prayers will solve our problems — but the truth of the matter is, the prayers are rarely answered with clarity, logic, or ability to intercede for the well-being of our humanity.
As a nation, we are out of step with having faith in our democracy. Our politicians continue being captive to the theatrics of electability by proudly displaying no integrity as a way of connecting with lemming constituencies demonstrating cult-like devotions trying to return us to flat earth philosophies.
Our fair city has yet to see the potential of embracing the light. Its investments in the arts and culture are minimal compared to neighboring communities, for no understandable reason except that our leadership fears imagination, creativity, and the people who help make communities shine in the light of day as well as the night. We seemingly do not want creative thought to take root in our community because it may expose our leadership’s uncultured plurality.
With dread, I exclaim that our politics seems to be aflame with citizens expressing pointy-headed misguided notions guided by unknown potions from times past. Solving problems in the negative is a time-honored tradition that must be challenged by those of us who want our community and nation to see the light.
It is easier to say no and take away people’s rights than it is to find facts and understand the problems mankind creates for one another. Name the problem — crime, homelessness, poverty, inequitably stratified economy, immigration, lack of integrity or accountability, and there will be those who come forth with protectionist self-serving points of view providing nothing new. Sadly, the blamers speak louder and crowd out the light in favor of their darker point of view. For progress to succeed, we need voices that speak with the community’s collective might.
Our city and schools can’t compete according to those who see the world through a morally darkened lens. Being afraid of the light, change, and not doing what is right for the future of all in our community is their committed choice, and they are at every council and school board meeting as a vocal minority spouting a wisdom well-versed in the platitudes of denying people services, access, and a way forward to participate in our American dream unless the problems they see, become subordinate to their defined sense of conformity. Freethinkers and enlightened they are not.
The laws of attraction apply to communities as well. We live in a world of statistical numbers that are either facts or swirls of confusion in the hands of those who choose to misconstrue our ability to see reality. Poor Federal Way has grown poorer since it lost its status as a company town with an enviable payroll. The exodus of jobs started years ago as a trickle and over time the effect has become a constant prickle that is a distraction frustrating our ability to reestablish our sense of attraction. Sadly, we are led by a leadership faction that knows not what to do. But neither do we.
Outsiders looking at us what do they see? Opportunity? Resilience? Energy? Our desire to let in the light? Or do they see mediocrity and dark clouds obscuring potential until the community decides what it wants to be? Who we are presently is who we will be until momentum shifts from within the community demanding that we become more focused on letting in the light.
Glimmers of hope are present and can be seen with seven of our schools rebuilt lighting the joy of learning in the students’ eyes when roaming the halls of something new. There are stars in our community working tirelessly to assure that students who live with food insecurity are served and provided food with dignity, thereby assuring our student’s futures are bright.
Poverty is a blight on us all but it is here to stay because, with our regressive form of monopoly capitalism and government abdicating responsibility by the electorate’s choice, and lobbyist’s voice, we have no ability to make it go away. Poverty is always in the shadows but thank goodness there are good people in Federal Way keeping it at bay.
Poverty may be part of our reality, but through the efforts of Fusion and Poverty Bay Cafe, the Multi-Service-Center, March of Diapers, and multiple local service organizations – Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Boys and Girls Club, and more, a daily difference is made.
Alignment to solve problems is talked about but rarely achieved. We live in a world where there are hard-core factions doing nothing to help until they solve the equation,“what is in it for me.” Hopefully, we can use the season to get beyond their lack of reason, and talk about our needs in a spirit of camaraderie as well as collective responsibility.
No seasonal ode to Federal Way is complete without a sense of gratitude for the potential in all of us to do more, blame less, share our wealth, or time to volunteer. For us to succeed we need more unsung hero’s caring choices to shield our community from darkness and let in the light for all to see.
So, season’s greetings to one and all, and may thoughts of caring and sharing be your guiding light throughout the New Year!
Keith Livingston is a retired municipal management professional, lifelong artist and Federal Way resident. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org