by Kristen Lucas, Focus Louisville April 2013 —
Back during my college days, I was in the library reading my Psychology 101 textbook when I came across the word “fortuitous.” Perhaps I shouldn’t admit it, but I didn’t know what it meant. So I looked up the word in the dictionary (yes, an honest-to-goodness paper dictionary), learned its meaning, and reread the passage so I could understand it more completely.
I likely would have forgotten this moment entirely had it not been for hearing someone use “fortuitous” in conversation the very next day. I thought, “How fortuitous it is that just yesterday I learned the meaning of that word.” A couple days later, I heard a television character say it. And shortly after that, I read it in a magazine article. “Fortuitous” suddenly was everywhere. It didn’t take long for me to arrive at the humbling realization that “fortuitous” had been everywhere all along. But until I knew what it meant, I simply couldn’t see it.
The reason I’m sharing this memory is because Focus Louisville had a very similar effect on me. In our few days together, my classmates and I were (re)introduced to Louisville: its history, present, and future; its resources and needs; its neighborhoods, schools, employers, government, arts, and community organizations. Again and again, we joined in a chorus of, “I never knew this was here,” or “I didn’t know that,” or “I think I heard something about it… maybe.”
Almost instantly, the things I learned at Focus Louisville started popping up everywhere. The Monday after graduation, a job candidate asked me about JCPS and I had an answer that addressed his concerns and was able to point him to additional resources. A day after that, in a casual chat with colleagues about Main Street, I was able to chip in some fun trivia about downtown architecture (thank you, Tom Owen!). A few days later, I was at a party when I was introduced to a woman who is on staff at Home of the Innocents and I was able to talk to her about her role, understanding better how her work fits into the full complement of services offered by the organization. I had to stop to wonder: How many conversations and opportunities had I missed because I skipped past the parts of Louisville—neighborhoods, initiatives, issues, and organizations—that were unfamiliar to me?
I suppose I could say the timing of my participation in Focus Louisville was fortuitous, that it was all some lucky chance I learned these things in the nick of time. But Louisville, its challenges, and its opportunities had been there all along, right outside my window. Important discussions and debate about them had been taking place all around me. I was the one who wasn’t seeing or hearing them. Thanks to Focus Louisville, I see and hear them now.