Leadership is on our minds, as we await another State of the Union message and wonder if our government will shut down, again, in two weeks.
When Jane Byrne became the mayor of Chicago in 1979, she was so upset by shootings in the Cabrini-Green housing project that she moved into Cabrini with her husband. I know Cabrini well because I volunteered there as a tutor at about that time. Cabrini scared me, and I was grateful to leave each day. Jane and her husband lived there almost a month.
Some called it a gimmick, but it made a huge difference for those residents. Suddenly, the police began to patrol, city workers began to clean up alleys and haul away dumpsters that had been long ignored. A special night court was established right in Cabrini for immediate response to violent crimes.
Jane Byrne practiced the leadership of immersion, immersing herself in the struggles and fears of her citizens.
In this Sunday’s lesson from Jeremiah, he condemns the kings who isolate themselves from their citizens, focusing on personal building projects, mounted with slave labor and illicit funds.
This Sunday we’ll think about our own sites of leadership – our families, community groups, neighborhoods. How are we leading – by isolation or immersion?