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After watching the lunar eclipse on Monday, I learned a new word: syzygy. Syzygy (pronounced “siz-i-jee”) has a dual definition:
  1. An alignment of three celestial bodies
  2. “Yoked together”
This word had me thinking of the multiple events in the news this week and how they are “yoked together.” Three things come to mind: new data on income inequality, Pope Francis’s U.S. visit, and FD’s regional discussions.

This September, the U.S. Census bureau issued a report titled Income and Poverty in the United States: 2014, which revealed that black household income plunged in Minnesota last year. Star Tribune covered the topic in a September 18 article:
The trend appears to be unique to black Minnesotans. They were the only racial group to regress economically, with their median household income dropping to $27,000 in 2014, down from $31,500 in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That stands in stark contrast to other racial groups in Minnesota, whose household incomes grew or stabilized during the same period. The state now trails Mississippi in terms of median household incomes for blacks. (From Star Tribune: Black leaders say state has done too little on racial income disparity.)
Yoked to these data is this quote from Pope Francis when he spoke to the United Nations on September 25:
To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny. Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed. They must be built up and allowed to unfold for each individual, for every family, in communion with others, and in a right relationship with all those areas in which human social life develops — friends, communities, towns and cities, schools, businesses and unions, provinces, nations, etc. (From Time: Transcript: Read the Speech Pope Francis Gave to the United Nations; emphasis added.)
During our visits to the Andover regional office and the Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center last week, we spoke about those who participate in our programs and the complex lives they lead. We discussed that we need to truly listen, and how when we do listen, we learn that their needs are so much deeper and broader than the topic we may be prepared to teach. Families are facing so much — we can only help if we work in syzygy with them and allow them to be “dignified agents of their own destiny.”

My takeaway? Instead of responding a challenge with “no, because…” or “yes, but...”, I will say, “yes, and…”

Trish Olson
Director of Programs

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