We were accompanied by Longmont City Council Member Bonnie Finley and Citizen Activist Doug Vincent on our walk Sunday. We walked a very special neighborhood - the one where Bonnie grew up until she went off to college. It was truly a blessing to have Bonnie walk with us. She is such a people-person and someone who feels right at home meeting people she did not know. What was so noticeable is how quickly people warmed up to Bonnie. I invited Doug to join us Sunday. Doug is a playwright and actor and wrote a wonderful play entitled, "A Day For Grace." Doug is very active as a community member in his desire to have our community lovingly embrace those who struggle with mental and emotional health in our community. It was an honor to have him with us Sunday.
The neighborhood we chose to walk was in West Longmont. The homes were modest, well-kept and inhabited by people who have lived in the area for many years. I am not sure why this walk seemed different than previous walks - maybe it wasn't. Maybe our awareness about what is happening is growing! Perhaps it was the beautiful weather; maybe it was the enticing diversity of the demographics in the neighborhood; could it have been that so many people were out and about? There just seemed to be so much energy and excitement with the people we met on our walk. We encountered and spoke with very young people, teenagers, young parents, grandmas and grandpas, great grandmothers, people from other countries and long-time residents of our community.
What a blessing it was!! I was so excited to be with Mike, Bonnie and Doug. I felt all of my concerns melt away the moment we started. That is what these walks do for me. It is as if I am in another world for the 2-3 hours we are meeting with people we have never met before. It is so spiritual!
What is going on? Why do people seem so hungry for connection? There was a visceral feeling on our walk Sunday that seemed to capture the essence of our Belonging Revolution. The people we met Sunday were so enthusiastic to be with us and tell us their stories. Wherever we went, people wanted to talk and let us know about their families, their dreams, their pasts, their concerns, their hopes - it was just amazing! People want to belong; they want to be part of our community; they seemed so grateful that we were there - why? They hugged us with their eyes, their handshakes, their intensity, their presence and with their arms.
It was an amazing day. And as previously reported, we are seeing more and more of this kind of response on the part of people we are encountering. Let us be clear. This is not about Mike and me. But we are not sure what it is. Are people just tired of detachment and isolation and loneliness? “We have more ways to communicate with each other and perhaps we never felt more alone.” Do people want others to know what their gifts are and what they have to offer? Do people just want to feel valued and to let others know who they are? Why is it that two or three strangers showing up on their front yards bring out so much passion and desire to belong. It is as if we came to the right place and we are being affirmed for that choice. Notwithstanding what forces are at play, Mike and I are ready to make invitations to everyone to belong and to be participate and to be part of bringing about new possibilities! WOW! We ask everyone if they want to be more involved and just about everyone wants to - they, gladly and with anticipation, give us their names, phone numbers and email addresses. The ground is so fertile for restorative principles and practices to be planted! We have chronicled so many contacts.
Mike and I are marching forward. And thank you ever so very much Mike for including me in your “Belonging Revolution” team. We are so committed to our Belonging Revolution! The Universe is creating a space for people to want to come together and for authentic community to come to life and for people to create something new for themselves!
We met with about thirty people. So many highlights and so much hope and possibility! Thank you God for this opportunity to be a part of our wonderful community of Longmont.
Thank you Council Member Bonnie Finley and thank you Doug Vincent for walking with us
From Council Member Bonnie Finley, Ward 3
What an awesome experience to walk with Chief Butler, Dan and Doug in my old neighborhood. We met such interesting and friendly people. It is so refreshing to hear that our citizens feel safe and a sense of belonging in our community. It is also wonderful to hear that our Hispanic neighbors do not feel discrimination. One man described Longmont as Pleasantville because it is so perfect here. We met one young woman who is contemplating running for the school board someday. She works for the Adam 12 school district and has two sons in the St. Vrain Valley school system. She would be a good candidate and I encouraged her to run someday soon. We also spoke with lots of kids who also love living in Longmont. I hope I get asked to walk again as I truly enjoyed it. I always said that Longmont's greatest asset was its people and today was just another example.Bonnie Finley
From Actor playwright Doug Vincent
Our meeting place Sunday morning happened to be right down the street from my house. As I walked down 9th Avenue on this beautiful fall day I knew I was about to experience something special with these ongoing Longmont community walks. With deep gratitude I was graciously invited to tag along with enlightened Longmont Police Chief Mike Butler and Legendary Community Activist Dan Benavidez… with Bonnie Finley from the Longmont City Council wonderfully joining this week as well.
Here’s the thing: these guys are the real deal, and community members know it. As we approached folks who might be out on their porch, working on their car, hanging out in the park or perhaps in their front yard, the transition to acceptance and openness and then true communication occurs essentially immediately.Here’s why: these community leaders approach folks with an open mind, an open heart…and open ears. Citizens deeply understand they are being sincerely heard, that these leaders really care- and they are absolutely right. The reaction of citizens was extraordinary. While the experiences with every thoughtful interaction truly proved to be absolutely excellent, I want to highlight one example.
One man might have had a tear or two well up a bit as we wrapped up our chat and he proudly headed back to his porch. This man knew deep down he was being completely heard, honestly respected, profoundly valued. I told the guys the sun might have been in my eyes too… bright autumn day and all. These community leaders intuit the profound value of this brilliant and human approach, as the knowledge, wisdom and experience of these Longmont folks proves invaluable beyond measure. The willingness of the community to engage cannot be monetized. Answers from inevitable problems in any community perhaps come best from within, not top down.
Additionally- these leaders directly talk about things usually avoided at all costs. Simply, they have the courage to directly talk about it. In meeting with folks, genuine questions over any potential safety concerns, experiences with police and fire personnel interactions- with openness to discuss any and all problems are approached easily and directly. Even direct question into any potential discrimination in any way from anyone is broached. These potentially difficult topics are approached with candor yet gentle graciousness. Moreover, these leaders are just real about it.
Often our discussions with Longmont folks, always infused with warm humor, concluded with one last single question from Police Chief Mike Butler, sometimes translated as needed into Spanish by his old friend- the wonderful Dan Benavidez.
Do you really feel the sense that you are welcome in Longmont, that You Belong?
Doug Vincent, Playwright/ Performer- A Day for Grace