Last Friday on the PBS Newshour, commentator Mark Shields tried to explain how the Republican Party failed to “repeal and replace” Obamacare even though they had a 40-seat majority in the House of Representatives. “The Republican Party is an opposition party,” he noted. “It’s not a governing party. It showed itself unable to accept the responsibility and the accountability of governing.”

If you are a condo association board member, you are probably nodding your head vigorously up and down because you’ve experienced how easy it is for owners to criticize what is not working in the building, i.e. to be members of the opposition party, but won’t show up at meetings to offer constructive ideas on how to make things better.

We can all come up with examples of whiners and complainers who don’t lift a finger when it comes time to contribute to a positive direction, but I want to celebrate three examples of channeling the negative energy of dissatisfaction and/or loss into energy that is producing concrete results — kind of like how a hydroelectric dam converts the energy of water pressure into the energy of electricity.

Example one: St. Bernardine’s Kingdom Retreat. This Saturday, April 1, St. Bernardine Catholic Church will be hosting its annual Kingdom Retreat, which will begin at 8 a.m. At that gathering the three speakers will each talk about how God has helped them make spiritual lemonade, if you will, out of the sour lemons life has given them. 

Each will honestly acknowledge the despair and/or anger and/or depression they’ve experienced. However, the main theme of their talks will not focus on the unfairness of life but rather on how a Power Greater than Ourselves, to borrow 12 Step language, can restore us to sanity and promote healing.

And, by the way, the breakfast and lunch will delicious. 

Example two: On the same day, April 1, at 10 a.m., there will be a groundbreaking for our new Community Family Rec Center at the far east end of The Park — Circle and Harrison — on what is commonly called the “Roos property.”

In some ways, being on a park district board is similar to being a member of a condo association board. Each encounters “members of opposition parties” who are quick to criticize and hesitant to lend a helping hand (or mind). Yet the park board was determined to include as many village residents as possible in the planning process by holding open community meetings and being transparent and responsive to the Review with frequent interviews.

The resulting facility, which hopefully will open for our use in July of 2018, won’t be everything everyone hoped for. It won’t be perfect, but by including as many people as possible in the planning process and being open about what limited financial resources can buy, the perfect has not been the enemy of the good. We are getting a pretty nice facility for our tax dollar.

Example three: Proviso Together. Next Tuesday, Forest Parkers will have the opportunity to turn out in droves to our voting precincts to help elect Samuel Valtierrez, Amanda Grant, Della Patterson and Rodney Alexander to the D209 Proviso Township school board. You can meet these four positive people at The Park this evening at 7 p.m.

The tide began to turn two years ago when two Forest Parkers, Ned Wagner and Claudia Medina, took the risk of channeling the almost universal dissing of Proviso East High School in this town into the energy required to run for the board that governs our public high school. The fact that they actually won is not as important as their willingness to move from being members of — like most of us were/are — the party of opposition to participating in a movement with the goal of governing our public high school well.

Art Jones famously used the name Windmill for the group of investors he was part of, whose goal was to revitalize Madison Street by investing their money and their time into our main business thoroughfare. They dared to dream the impossible dream and then to put their money where their dreams were. Again, I’m not impressed as much by the fact that they “won,” as by their willingness to move from the party of opposition to the party that attempts to govern.

“This above all, to refuse to be a victim,” Margaret Atwood declared. “Unless I can do that, I can do nothing.”

Many of us, unfortunately, have been victims of a whole assortment of circumstances, including being a resident of a school district, which, up until now, has had an underperforming high school. 

But we have a choice. We can surrender to the bad hand we’ve been dealt, join the opposition party and complain about whomever we consider to be the dealer, or we can join forces with others, who have been dealt similar hands perhaps, and govern our lives and eventually the institutions for which we are responsible. 

To the best of our ability.