As we finished celebrating Mardi Gras earlier this week, and with springtime festivities only weeks away, 2019 is picking up steam and moving right along. Luckily enough, I did not get myself arrested on Tuesday evening as I stumbled out onto the Drive with my Mardi Gras beads shouting at people passing by to flaunt themselves in exchange for cheap jewelry.
One or two enthusiastically engaged in my debauchery until friends hauled me away to safety. All in all, it was a far cry from the hordes of revelers that pack New Orleans and other cities throughout Christendom on the eve marking the beginning of the Lenten season. Now we move on to 40 days of ascetic behavior and avoidance of temptation. The many who claim to be good Christians will hopefully gain greater compassion as they practice a more spiritual discipline through the Lenten season, even though the Methodists are clearly off to a poor start in that department.
On the topic of compassion, there is bright spot on the local level here in Broward County with the launch of the Community Court, which is held every Wednesday at the Fort Lauderdale City Hall. It is the first court of its kind here in Florida, aimed mainly at those accused of petty infractions like panhandling and loitering. This court will go a long way in assisting a very vulnerable population in our community.
Only a few weeks into operation, many are witnessing a huge support network coming together to offer services to those so desperately in need. Outside City Hall, organizations offer clothing, care services, and assistance in obtaining legal identification cards, birth certificates, and so much more that is required for many to get the social services they need to break the cycle of homelessness.
This small part of a solution to a regional issue of homelessness, mental illness and addiction can serve as a beacon of hope for us all. Looking to lend a helping hand to those in need is a far better approach than to do nothing, turning a blind eye to encampments outside our public facilities, and offering no hope as those who are suffering spiral further down a path of despair.
Initial signs of compassion and hospitality were definitely fading fast at our last City Commission meeting once the initial presentation was made to a packed house of enthusiastic residents. Those packing the Commission Chambers heard a wonderful presentation on the Station Area Master Plan and possible development scenarios that are necessary to sustain our city’s future. The presenter did a great job informing the engaged audience on the possibilities of a future train station and how increased density achieved in the right places and with appropriate design does not have to be viewed as an evil monster rearing its head to bring havoc and destruction to us all.
Unfortunately, the ensuing presentation on the Hotel Study Findings caused all good feelings to quickly dissipate, like a vacuum sucking all the air out of the room. Luckily for the presenter, he had to leave early for another engagement. Had he stayed around, he would have experienced very little compassion once the agitated Commissioners and audience let loose with questions and commentary that would have bordered on verbal abuse towards this poor misguided soul.
To think of comparing our great city’s needs to those of an aged motel chain on Federal Highway was insulting enough for anyone in the audience to endure. In an attempt to make ice cream out of mud, our Economic Development advisor stated that at least now we know the hurdles placed before us by such misguided individuals and institutions who are preventing such a shared dream of becoming a reality.
By the end of a long informative evening, compassion was clearly not on the minds of those few tired souls left sitting in the chamber. One caveat was to watch the Commissioners begin to get a bit curt with their colleagues on the dais as the facade of pleasantries faded along with the remaining minutes to the midnight hour.
As 2019 moves steadily ahead we should spend the next few weeks looking at ways to bring compassion into our daily routine. Let compassion guide us and motivate us to assist those in our community in need of a helping hand. Let us be motivated by the good work being done every Wednesday at the Community Court.
Rather than turn a blind eye, let us compassionately engage to bring about solutions that will make life just better here…