I’ve been hearing the word “fear” a lot lately.

Many Forest Park residents are afraid of what will happen if Donald gets elected. Others are afraid that Hillary will make things worse. Black parents give the “talk” to their children, and police officers have a heightened awareness when they leave the house for work that they might not return home at the end of their shift.

The U.S. State Dept. “warns U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey. As stated in the Worldwide Caution, dated March 3, 2016, throughout Europe extremists have targeted large sporting events, theaters, open markets, aviation services, transportation systems, and public venues where people congregate.”

Gun sales are up, environmentalists speak in apocalyptic tones, parents worry about their kids, poor people are anxious about paying the rent, and Cub fans fear another heartbreaking season. Are all these fears grounded in reality, or are they products of our existentially insecure imaginations, fueled by the ratings-hungry, so-called “news” media?

The Gospels tell two stories about Jesus and storms. In one, the disciples are in a boat with Jesus and a violent storm comes up, causing the disciples to become so afraid that that they beg Jesus — i.e. they pray — to do something to save them. Jesus responds by asking, “Why are you afraid?” and calms the storm.

In the other story, Jesus tells people to build their houses on a rock because storms will inevitably come in life, and if you want to survive them, you should build your house on something solid instead of on sand.

So which is it? Do we ask God to “deliver us from evil,” or do we pray for what Psalm 138 calls “strength of soul?” The first prayer pictures humans as victims of powers greater than ourselves. The second contends that we are “response-able.”

The first blames the “system” for our fears, i.e. it’s the fault of the establishment, or Wall Street, or a particular race, economic class, religion or gender. The second declares, “Stop your whining and take responsibility for yourself.”

If you ask Ned Wagner and Claudia Medina, “Which is it, change the system or individual responsibility?” I think they would reply, “Both.”

Almost everyone agrees that D209 needs fixing. The problem lies in the system. What Ned and Claudia have done is respond to that shared sense of dysfunction by choosing to run for the D209 School Board — and to gather more individuals into a cooperative force to change the system.

I’m a person of faith, so I prefer to begin with option #2, i.e. change myself. I think it’s better to find a way to let go of feeling like a victim — even though it may be true that I am one — and invest time and energy in finding a rock to build my life on. Then, when the storms of life come and frighten me, I will ask God — or Mayor Calderone or the President or my spouse — to remove whatever it is that is scaring me.

But the diversity of stories in the Bible seems to be telling us that sometimes God will still the storm and sometimes God will not. If you consider the history of this country, sometimes the government at any level will remove the source of our fears, and sometimes it won’t or can’t.

In either case, Jesus, Ned and Claudia have something to say to us about response-able living. 

1) Identify what frightens you, and share your fears with people you trust.

2) But don’t get stuck in feeling like a victim.

3) Find a rock to stand on, and you’ll discover others standing there with you.

4) Then, as a community of individuals, act.

By first finding a rock to stand on, you will know that the storm does not have the power to “blow you away.” No matter how badly the wind and waves beat you up, your strength of soul will enable you to stand firm. That may not look like success to the “world,” however you may define it. But the world is not going to stop frightening us until individuals find rocks to stand on, from which they can, together, take on powerful storms.

So, are you going to work for a candidate in the next hundred days or stay home, whine and feel like a victim saying, “I’m just one small individual, both major party candidates are far less than I had hoped for, and the system is too powerful to change?”