“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness… it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” So begins Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Originally written as newspaper articles in 1859, this story of the French Revolution reminds us that collaboration and sacrifice can transform a divided culture.

Collaborate: to work jointly to produce or create something; co-operate, join forces, team up, participate, combine, ally. Transformation: a thorough dramatic change in form or appearance; alteration, conversion, metamorphosis. These definitions vividly describe how collaboration can transform our community.

Collaboration intended to bring about positive community transformation is a powerful force. Everyday, frontline warriors stand arm in arm passionately battling the biggest problems plaguing our community. These modern day revolutionaries are making a difference all around us.

Party in the Park, designed to serve neighbors in poverty, was a collaborative effort of hundreds of volunteers and over 35 churches, community groups, businesses, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. Joellen Schwandt, Community Outreach Pastor at Pathways Church, said, “Look at all of these people from different backgrounds coming together for a common cause. It’s beautiful to see.” Caring individuals courageously set aside differences with the potential to divide and instead rallied together to help. Over 2800 community members in need received free food, clothing, shoes, backpacks, school supplies, haircuts, medical care and other critical services.

A movie premiere event for non-profit organization, 5-stones, is another local example of collaboration. Connie Campbell, an ordinary citizen with a vision to take down the giant of sex trafficking, launched 5-stones in her kitchen. The organization has now developed movies and curriculum to raise awareness among youth about the dangers of trafficking. Numerous diverse agencies, organizations, and individuals collaborated on the project which is available free of charge to people and organizations who want to join the fight against slavery in America. Event sponsors, Rick and Jennifer Bollenbeck, said, “The people here tonight are a good cross section of our community–doctors, lawyers, schools, businesses, faith-based organizations, law enforcement, service agencies, and community leaders. This matters. We need to work together.”

Over 50 community stakeholders recently met at Goodwill to address our extremely polarized society. Stronger Together Fox Valley, ESTHER, and Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities fulfilled their goal of engaging respectful dialogue among community leaders by engaging this interactive workshop about depolarizing conversations to build bridges around important issues. Nancy Jones, STFV Core Team leader says, “There is no illusion of community members agreeing on everything, but there are areas with shared values and hopes in which we can improve the well-being of our community.”

King Solomon, often referred to as the wisest man in history, spoke of collaboration. “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble… A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

Collaborating across cultural divides through dynamic community efforts designed to help the hurting and needy among us is possible. Together we can make a difference.

Dickens believed sacrifice of individuals is necessary to benefit the whole of society. Will you consider what individual sacrifice you can make to join a larger collaborative effort to transform our community? What needs do you recognize? How can you make an impact? A simple Internet search for a cause such as homelessness or sexual assault with your city name will introduce you to a wide variety of groups in your area collaborating for transformation. Won’t you join them?