This last Sunday we walked a neighborhood that has had considerable police presence and activity over the last month. The neighborhood consisted of all apartments in Southwest Longmont. Just last week, police executed a search warrant and arrested five young men for breaking into dozens of cars in the apartment complex. There have been other issues and concerns that required police and fire response. We believed since this neighborhood had these sort of experiences that we would walk the neighborhood and attempt to provide some guidance or solace in our connections. We are happy we did! It was truly an amazing day and walk with one unique set of circumstances.
The first person we approached was Jean. She was enjoying the sun on her back patio when we said hello. She immediately put her hand up and said she did not want to talk with us. Mike identified himself and gave her his card and she still wanted nothing to do with us. Mike thought, at the very least, he should present official identification so he went back to the car and got his badge. Mike showed Jean his badge and, while her sense of caution lessened, she made it clear she did not want to talk. We wished her a wonderful day and invited her to call Mike later. About twenty minutes later, while we were in conversation with Noel, Jean surprisingly approached us and exclaimed that she had done a google search of Mike and now really knew he was the public safety chief. She invited us back to her residence. So, after we finished our conversation with Noel, we made our way back to Jean’s home where she immediately introduced us to her adult daughter, Cordelia. We had a twenty minute conversation in which Jean and Cordelia asked us a number of questions, praised public safety for their recent actions, discussed a nearby person who struggles with his mental health, and a shared a whole host of other stories. When we asked Jean and Cordelia to consider more involvement/engagement with our community convened by the City, they both enthusiastically signed up! In a matter of about 45 minutes, we went from a situation where total mistrust prevailed to a strong desire to be of greater assistance to our community. WOW!! It made our heart sing…it made everything groovy – it was a wild thing! This whole deal was a first for us in our walks.
Noel was walking his pooch and gladly engaged with us. Noel has lived in his current apartment for three years. He loved his neighborhood and our community and volunteered to be more involved in upcoming community conversations regarding City-wide concerns.
So here is what we are learning. People appreciate being valued enough to be invited to use their skills, talents, gifts and resources for the greater good. We do not have to try to talk anyone into more engagement - nor will we. As we talk about possibilities, we can see in people’s eyes and hear in their voices a visceral desire to help out. And as we said in last week’s report, it does not make any difference what one’s economic status is. Our community is just waiting to be asked. And there are some who do not have to be asked – they are already taking steps to make their community a better place. They feel and want to leverage the power of belonging they have for the good of the whole! Each person’s story is a little different but their commonness is found in what seems like a spiritual circuitry that connects us all.
We spoke with several other people including Lisa with her four little ones. Lisa is a stay-at-home mom and a busy one at that but desired to be more engaged with our community and wanted to be contacted so she could help out in other ways. She also commented that would also give her more opportunities to talk with adults –YEA! Mike gave each Of Lisa’s kids his card and they warmed up to Mike as he explained what he does and gave him his card.
And how wonderful it was to meet and talk with Sreni and his daughter. Sreni is from India and will be returning to India in a couple of months and hetold us he hasbeen working in Boulder but lived an loved Longmont and felt very much that he belonged in Longmont and if he returns will be wanting to live in his /our great City Longmont!
And we had a great talk with Pedro, who came from Mexico 17 years ago and loves it here in Longmont and is very happy and satisfied living in Longmont. Mike asked him and (I interpreted) “Do you feel you belong here?” He said “yes! “ And then Mike went on to ask him “have you ever been discriminated in our Community?” “At stores or other places?” He said “absolutely not! “ He went on to say Longmont the best!!
We are really happy we walked this particular neighborhood this particular Sunday. People felt re-assured and while Mike had to explain a few times exactly what the police did over the last few weeks, perhaps we were able to bring about a greater sense of belonging and sense that things would be ok.
Thank God I am able to accompany Mike on these walks and thank God I live in wonderful Longmont, Colorado a “Belonging Revolution” community.
Thank you, Dan Benavidez