Back To The Future for Waco

By Jerrod Clark

Well Waco, it’s Back to the future we go! No, I’m not referencing the blockbuster film, I am calling all Wacoans to dream about our future city and how we want her to look. Are we satisfied with a city that is economically sound, yet segregated? Or do we want her to be whole and welcoming, a city where trust exists and where healthy community can flourish? And if that is what we want, how do we get there?

A first step is to resurrect the notion of working for “the common good.” I must recognize that I did not just arrive at prosperity solely by my own hard work.  I stand on the shoulders of those that have gone before me. My family, support system, tax payers—I have benefitted from the collective whole who sacrificed for the common good.  I am a grateful recipient of all of that.

Those that invested in me did so without expectation of benefit, however, they do benefit. The return on their investment in the development of others is not zero — everyone’s future depends on the youth who come behind them.

If I were born in a family where education was not valued, I too might be uneducated or under-educated and possibly be ill-equipped or un-empowered to reach my fullest potential. However, if my community would pick up the slack and help bridge the gaps by helping to equip me with the skills needed to flourish, then I might be able to make up for that disadvantage.  Then I would be able to make my own contribution to the “common good.”

Because of that notion, I cannot be idle. I cannot be partial. I have to work on being inclusive so that others can also share in the benefits of the common good of the community.

As I think about these things, I am reminded of words attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  He said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”  The poor are a reflection on our inaction and a commentary on our priorities as a community. We should strive to lift and elevate those who have been left behind and pushed to the margins.

Change does not have to be “throwing out the baby with the bath water” so to speak. This can be incremental — as small as one degree. This is the One-Degree Principal.[1] Have you heard of it? It’s a simple concept and easy to remember. It has a lot to do with taking small, incremental steps in the direction of our goals. When added together, the small steps produce big results over time. A minute one-degree of change has huge outcomes over time and/or distance. It just depends if that one-degree of change is positive or negative.

north southTo illustrate: Imagine a Wacoan and an Austinite go on a business trip to Montreal, Canada. They each fly out of their respective cities and plan to return the same way. On the return flight, however, the two pilots each get off bearing just one degree in the wrong direction. As a result, the Austinite ends up in Waco and the Wacoan ends up in Austin.

In much the same way, each of us are traveling along our path, and based on our habits and actions one can project where he or she will be in ten years.  However, if you decide to make just one small change in your actions – even a 1 degree change – that one change will alter your path, and ultimately alter your outcome. This is true when it comes to saving money, building relationships, getting fit, deciding the fate of a city … in fact every area of our lives. Let it begin with me.

I am a realist-idealist! I recognize that this sounds like an oxymoron. What I mean is, I would prefer that we strive to arrive at a place that is ideal! But, I know that is not realistic.  However, if we can shoot for somewhere between “less than ideal” and “more than mediocrity,” then I do believe that is a realistic expectation.

We can’t just stay where we are though, something has to give. These are tumultuous and perilous times. Let us not allow politics to divide us over doing the right thing for the common good. Let’s let the common good and morality unite us to do the right thing. We have come a long way. Thanks be to God that most of us do not know the horrors of The Great Depression of 1929-1939. However, we still have homeless individuals dying on our streets. Affordable housing stock is still lacking. Jobs in the private sector are still not 100 percent on board with a Fair Chance Hiring Policy that would give opportunity to more formerly incarcerated individuals to become contributors to the common good.

How do we get where we want to go? What do we want our future to look like? We are co-authors of our destiny. We make our plans, but God directs our steps, right? What degree of change can we make? Let’s work together today to be a fair city, one where all can be prosperous and everyone wins. It takes a village to raise a child, so they say.  I guess that makes us village people! We can be one community with many tribes working together for a common goal – understanding that if the whole community prospers, then we too shall prosper.

“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” — Jeremiah 29:7

Jerrod ClarkJerrod Clark is a Texas transplant. He came to Waco in 1996 to attend school and never left. He is a graduate of Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work and is the Social Worker at the Meyer Center for Urban Ministries. He has been working with the homeless since 1998. He and his wife, Carolina of seven years have two daughters, Nichole and Hannah Jean. They are active participants at Church Under the Bridge.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.


[1] Adapted from:

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