I remember a Monty Python sketch set during Roman times in which a Centurion says, “Here it is A.D. already, and I’m still writing B.C. on my checks.” We are in those first weeks of the year when writing 2020 seems awkward. Could it possibly be two decades since we fretted over Y2K?
Twenty years ago, my family and I were holed up at my brother-in-law’s farm in rural Pioneer, Missouri. We figured if something did go wrong, we would be safe from the outside world. Right after we counted down and the clock struck midnight, all the power went off and our world went dark. As we stood in silence, we heard giggles from another room — our children had flipped the main power switch.
It was 26 years ago that leaders in Springfield started their comprehensive planning process, Vision 20/20. I was privileged to be a part of that initiative. I chaired the center-city focus group — one of 14 focus groups that were held — and sat on the overall steering committee. It was both enjoyable and challenging to try to envision what we wanted our community to become by 2020. That seemed so far off then, and now here we are.
There is also satisfaction in reflecting back, and seeing how much has happened that seemed like only a dream then. Downtown was just barely starting to gain some interest again after declining for decades. Today it is one of the most vibrant areas of the city. Having minor league baseball was probably more of a hallucination than a vision then, and now we not only enjoy America’s favorite pastime here, it’s the Cardinals for Pete’s sake. And to imagine indoor ice skating at that time — forget about it!
As we face 2020, a few things come to mind. Despite all the news, there is still hope and opportunity before us; however, good things don’t necessarily happen by accident. As scripture says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Or, paraphrased for current times: Hope is not a strategy. The work done by our community a quarter century ago is enhancing the quality of life for our citizens today.
Personally, professionally and organizationally, it’s important to spend time thinking about and planning for the future. My own reflection has also reminded me that time is relative. When you’re six, an hour seems like eternity. When you’re 60, it’s a blink of the eye. And in the long arc of history, two decades are not even a rounding error. I know we all can be impatient when things don’t seem to happen as quickly as we think they should, but many times those expectations are unreasonable to begin with. As a Danish proverb says, “He who aims to leap high must run long.” A big vision takes planning, thought and patience.
We may not have a Vision 20/40 on the horizon — that would imply blurriness and impairment. Instead, the Springfield community is looking “Forward,” and we all should be thinking about what we want our organizations and communities to look like in 20 years. One thing is clear — the future will be here before we can fully imagine it.