37 flights of stairs, 1500 plus steps to the outer balcony of the Duomo in Florence, Italy at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. We looked across this ancient Italian city to all directions and for a moment felt connected to all of the people outside with us on this summit, on this giant church roof.
It took my daughter and I almost 15 minutes navigating the stairs as we moved heavenward, at times vertically, at times in a spiral staircase of stone that never seemed to end. What moved me was the way the lines up and the lines back down worked together in their own holy rhythm. People from China, India, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Poland, Israel, Lebanon, United States, Wales, Brazil, Australia all moved simpatico up the stairwells and back down. When the passage required the ascender and the descender to go back to back touching through the narrow straits it wasn’t a spoken language that was communicated, it was a wave, a smile, and eyes meeting across borders and sovereign nations. No one cringed that our beings had to closely brush as there was only one path. No one even had to say excuse me. There was a sense of a common purpose between all of us. Some of us were straight up tourists, others on a pilgrimage, some looking to overcome a challenge, and others decided to make the climb because they were in Florence. All of us had just met for the first time.
I think about our nation, our state, our county and our city these uncertain days and how whenever we are at our best, it is this shared internal HUMANITY that urges us on. We don’t always speak in one another’s tongues, we often don’t know enough about our neighbor’s Geo-history or background. But in a spirit of cultural humility we rise above our own struggles and make so much more progress. We also continue creating economic opportunities for immigrants and native borne alike. We fill our neighborhoods and vacant places with people who celebrate different holidays and worship in different buildings; people who still create the ancient greatness of what makes this place and her people worth coming to.
Cleveland is a rare place, one whose population surged both from immigration and migration: immigrants from the East and West, migrant African Americans from the South. And somehow in this year of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the election of the first African American Mayor of a major city in the United States, Mayor Carl Stokes, in the same city that hosts the world known (MULTI) Cultural Gardens of Welcome AND Peace, we are all on a similar journey here in Northeast Ohio.
We have challenges ahead of us. Kumbaya is not a song that comes to people of different lands right away. But there is so much we share here in the beginning days of Black History Month in a community that welcomes newcomers and native born citizens alike.
We have room for entrepreneurs and we have the need for more talent. We know when people have jobs their quality of life and the environment in which we all live improves. We know that hearing other languages at the West Side Market isn’t called quaint, it’s called CLEVELAND . We know that we have days ahead of great work and greater struggle. But one thing we know and share is that OUR response and our love for one another, regardless of zip or country code, is constant.
Thanks for coming along with us on the journey. Thanks for your openness to reading this newsletter that tells some of what we are working on. Mostly thanks for making our community a place where we can all rest and make a life after our unique climbs.
To the summit.
President of Global Cleveland