The Day of Reflection during the Tricentennial Commemorative Week is a powerful and courageous move of the heart, looking honestly at the life journey of San Antonians and the deeds and actions of the past 300 years.

It also looks forward to 300 more. Gathering together with boldness and intentional awareness of that reflection while looking toward the future is nothing short of transformative.

That is what May 1 holds for us, for San Antonio, if after riding the final waves of Fiesta we take this moment seriously. May 1 is indeed going to be celebratory, beautiful, diverse – but it holds so much more. Faith and the faith-filled people of our city are one of our largest natural resources.

Think about it: San Antonio’s founding in faith is even deeper than that of the Missions. Care of and honoring creation is deep in the roots of our geography. The waters pulled our original inhabitants together into the shape of community. We have grown over 300 years into a full spectrum of residents in culture, in faith expression, and in contribution toward the greater good of all.

Yet here we are, standing in front of a mirror and taking a historical moment to see ourselves more clearly, to see the challenges in our mutual future.

In honesty, we need always first admit that we are not perfect.

San Antonio has grown, and our history is rich. The story stretches back further than 300 years. Claiming our heritage is imperative for the fullness of community potential. This knowledge informs our future care and honors others more holistically.

In our demographic growing pains, even our faith communities have developed into pockets of separateness and unknowing. Claiming that and asking ourselves how to invest in building relational bridges of collaboration is the essential hope for uniting us into a city that is authentically compassionate – a citywide community that claims responsibility for the least and for all of us in creating rightful respect and deep care for all others, especially those who are impoverished, alone, hungry, and most in need.

On top of this history and demographic development we also find ourselves within a broader cultural context that, for better and sometimes worse, separates the value of faith from civic engagement. Sometimes this separation leads to false reasoning and doing nothing in service to others. How easy it would be as a person or as a people to sit back and say that compassionate care of others is solely up to the government.

Here’s the thing: What we claim and what we know are not either/or scenarios. Rather they are both/and. We would not be 300 years strong otherwise. San Antonians exhibit so much compassion beyond themselves for others, regardless of religion or ethnicity, regardless of faith or no faith. The spirit of San Antonians is written in our shared DNA of compassion.

Thousands of examples abound.

Earth Day just passed; local universities, City staff, and people of faith are all collaborating on creating a sustainable and flourishing future for our environment. Now there is some collective wisdom.

Likewise, nonprofits, congregations, businesses, health institutions, and City service departments are rising up out of their individuation and taking the initiative to develop relationships that activate partnerships and network services of care for the community at large.

A simple yet abundant example of this would be the 37,000 pounds of new blankets and cold weather clothing delivered to San Antonians in need this past winter. Local Latter-Day Saints were sparked by a simple action-alert texting system developed by the City’s Department of Human Services, and people in Utah who know what cold is like delivered a semi-truck full of compassion in the form of clothing.

Separation is just that. Intersection is another thing entirely – it is where faith and society converge. It expresses itself in an ethic of reciprocity, which is found in all the world religions and most commonly called the Golden Rule. This is our most common grounding and collective wisdom into the next 300 years.

The wisdom is simple: Treat others and the planet as you wish to be treated.

The actual actions and initiatives are the challenge that hold the greatest potential for transformation.

Yes, reflection is a courageous move of the heart. We as San Antonians do not lack depth of courage or compassion. On May 1 we gather together, mindful of our history, celebrating our current and future intent of unity amid diversity and recognizing the ties that bind us all together to be one of the United States’ top cities.

We are compassionate San Antonio.

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Ann Helmke

Rev. Ann E. Helmke is an ordained Lutheran (ELCA) minister currently serving as the community faith-based liaison for the City of San Antonio.