The world is watching and our values as a community are in question

To the Editor:

We are a group of Christian women and Villages residents who are prayerfully asking the Morse family to take advantage of this timely opportunity to publicly reaffirm that The Villages is an open and welcoming community to ALL people who visit or call it home. Unfortunately, this basic principle has been put into question by the recent confrontation between Villages residents at Lake Sumter Landing on June 14, 2020, that resulted in extremely negative national and international publicity for our community.
The silence of our founding family is difficult to interpret. Does it mean tacit agreement with the expressions of white supremacy? Does it mean not wanting to pick sides, or is it rooted in the unrealistic hope that “this too shall pass”? Sadly, in these volatile and divisive times, the odds of that happening are slim to none.
Whatever the case may be, there is a story told in the Morse family history that provides reason for hope that leaders from the current generation have the courage to do what’s right.
In the early 70’s on the Historical Side of The Villages there was a cross-burning on the lawn of one of the first black residents in our community. Understandably, this couple’s first impulse was to move away from The Villages as quickly as possible. However, Harold Schwartz urged them to stay and promised that he would never allow something like this to happen again.
Making good on his promise, Mr. Schwartz sat in his lawn chair on the couple’s front yard and asked every resident on the block to tell him who did this. It was believed that at least one of these neighbors knew the identity of the perpetrator. When his question was met with silence, Mr. Schwartz immediately let it be known that either someone would identify this person, or everyone on the block would have to go. Very soon thereafter, Mr. Schwartz got the name, and the individual who committed this heinous act was no longer a Villager.
Mr. Schwartz’s actions are a lasting example of what principled leadership looks like. Our hope as women of faith is that The Villages, being built on this foundation of principled leadership, will remain a community where all people feel valued and safe as residents. We pray that the current leadership of our community is equal to the task of doing what we are all called to do…To love our neighbor as ourselves by seizing this opportunity to do what’s right.
We also call upon all God fearing, law abiding and peace loving residents of The Villages to renounce and reject the kind of divisive rhetoric and behavior displayed in our town square on June 14. The world is watching and our values as a community are in question.

Vera Johnson
Village of Pennecamp

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