Spotting an American flag plastered on a car or blowing in the wind from a flagpole is easy enough these days. But less ubiquitous than our national symbol are the understated "Pray for Tucson" bumper stickers that show up from time to time.
Since current research indicates prayer is effective in a medical context--people who are prayed for are more likely to heal than those who are not--why not conduct an experiment on a citywide scale? Heaven knows, Tucson needs our prayers.
It would be easy to arrange: At an agreed-upon time on a weekly basis, several corps of citizens could stop what they were doing and spend 15 minutes engaged in active prayer for the Old Pueblo. Since thought is energy, and prayer is a form of thought, perhaps the sheer amount of energy created would create a subtle shift in the order (or chaos) of the cosmos, resulting in a brighter future for the city. Of course, everyone would have to be praying for the same objective at the same time in order to achieve success. Who knows? It just might work.
As in every time and place, there exists a plethora of prayer possibilities. So don your prayer shawls, break out the beads and light a candle. With a variety of persons and spiritual traditions involved, a non-sectarian opening is the wisest course. For example, "We beseech you (the 'you' here is open to personal interpretation and beyond divisive definition) to answer our prayers for Tucson and thank you for your prompt attention to these matters." (OK, that last part may need work.)
In case you are scratching your head and wondering where to begin, the following litany is as good a place as any to start. So let us pray for:
· Rain. Above all, pray for rain. Always pray for rain. Even in the midst of a monsoon, keep praying.
· An end to urban sprawl so driving from one end of Tucson to the other no longer requires a change in time zone.
· A public transportation system that actually transports people. Light rail from the Rincons to the Tucson Mountains along Speedway Boulevard with buses running north to south at major intersecting roads would go a long way toward getting people out of their cars.
· An influx of high-paying jobs to end our economic doldrums so kids graduating from high school would have more to look forward to than minimum-wage jobs, and so college graduates wouldn't be forced to leave town in order to find meaningful work.
· A more equitable way to fund our schools so all our children are afforded the same quality of education. A level playing field increases the odds of success for a greater number of young people.
· A shift in population patterns so the de facto segregation no one talks about ends. More people of color in the foothills and northside and more whites on the southside would go a long way towards lending the Old Pueblo some of Oakland's vibrancy.
· Tucson drivers to mend their Wild West ways and learn to use turn signals. Letting people know you are going to make a left turn does not mean you are a wuss, nor does it negatively reflect on the size of your penis.
· The creation of an alternate universe along Interstate 10 that seamlessly transports all vehicles with a Midwest license plate (and all motor homes regardless of point of origin) to an ersatz Tucson. In one metaphysical stroke, we'd be rid of all those annoying persons who find it physically impossible to drive above 35 mph, while at the same time, they'd remain happily oblivious to the fact that their destination has shifted.
· Contiguous bicycle lanes that actually permit bicyclists to get places rather than stranding them at some random corner.
· A vibrant downtown with attractively landscaped, pedestrian-only zones where people can enjoy a variety of art venues, cafés, restaurants and small shops centered around an inviting public square.
· An end to mall construction. We already have more than enough of these insidious magnets for cars and consumerism.
· Tucson's own Havana Cafe. B.J. and Gilbert Hernandez run two world-class restaurants in Phoenix and Scottsdale offering Cuban, Spanish and Latin American dishes that, once you try them, will compel you to make the trip north as often as you can. Unless your palate has been deadened by a steady diet of white bread and fast food, you'll agree that the savory fare offered there is among the best on the planet (which is why a Tucson location is worth praying for).
· Shorter summers with temperatures that top out at 95 degrees. (So maybe this is beyond the power of prayer, but hey, there's no harm in trying.)
· More rain, always more rain.
With great schools, a vibrant economy, public transportation that works, courteous drivers, an end to annoying winter visitors, an appealing downtown and a healthy population mix, Tucson would be in a position to reach out to the rest of the planet and expand its prayer potential. Envision thousands of cities around the globe with supplicants seeking the same worthy results. Certainly, peace, justice and an end to conditions that perpetuate hatred and war would top the list. Maybe the place to begin is with a prayer for an enlightened political leadership (despite the fact this notion may be an oxymoron) that helps rather than hinders the manifestation of our prayers.