/ Our Anniversary

As I was on my way for our walk it came to mind that Oh my Gosh!! We are well into our 26th month since Mike began our “Belonging Revolution “journey and what a great journey it has been. This Sunday it became more and more clear to me how far we in our Longmont Community have come together in the furtherance of inclusivity and the feeling of acceptance and belonging. I was almost brought to tears when the gentleman we had a great talk with and who has been in our community all his life and looked at me shook my hand and then when on to tell us how he recalled how separated we were back in the 1960’s. He told us about a part of our community which at that time was called “Taco Flats” and he and Iboth recalled those non inclusive days and how far we in our City TOGETHERhave come from those day and how we TOGETHER have made this thebeautiful, caring, inclusive community that it is today!! A great Belonging, Caring community!!! and  thatall, yes all with only one or two exceptions of those we have met and talked to over the months as we have been walking in our neighborhoods have shared with us that they love Longmont and feel the belong.  And also once again how caring a community it is when Kelly and Mark asked by Mike if they would like to help out with city issues and participate in discussions and programs to help those in our community who suffer from Chemical additions, help to find solutions for the homeless population and those with mental health issues and other community issues and they said FOR SURE they would like to help and in addition they are very much into sustainability of our planet earth

Ahh thank God as I have been so blessed to have lived almost all my life in this great city of Longmont.

And I thank Morning Glory Farr and Rachel Fuchs both fluent Spanish Speakers and Members of the Advisory Board of Philanthropiece and Rachel is also Director of programs for Intercambio both for accompanying Mike and me on our walk, It was ever so apparent the people we met and talked to just interfaced with them so freely and appreciated them deeply!

 

Mike's Perspective

We continued our Sunday walks in central Longmont. While it was a nice day, we did not meet as many people as we do typically.  The conversations we did have were rich nevertheless. By the way, Dan and I mapped out our community and the 90 plus neighborhoods we've walked comprises, geographically, about 1/4 of our community. The upside - we have 270 more delightful Sundays in our future! 

We were strangers in another neighborhood. We felt welcomed and invited and cared for. People were kind and considerate. Kindness, for me, is found in a relationship to another that has embodied in it love, care and respect. It is being conscious of the vulnerability and tenderness of others. It is the opposite of envy. I think it was Nietzsche who said that kindness and love are the most curative of herbs. Perhaps we can learn from those who are considered developmentally disabled. These folks seem to have a sense of kindness that is sometimes missing from those among us who are strangely labeled, "able." I encourage people to visit a local nursing home - the kindness found in the residents is gentle and comes with a warm smile. We could probably agree that kindness is high-minded - it either accepts or overlooks the frailties of the human condition. We are so grateful for the fertile soil of abundance because from it emerges the healing nature of kindness. 

Our first story is not from Sunday but from Saturday. Dan and I had the absolute honor to escort Lois around Golden Ponds - a series of little ponds in West Longmont. During our stroll, we shared stories of our loved ones, of our aches and pains, of the surrounding beauty, of some of our past and how much we value each other. What made this walk so very special was that Lois was celebrating her birthday - she is now eighty years young! Lois' wisdom, spirit and kindness hugged Dan and I tightly.


We met David. David is a long term resident of Longmont and our community. He spoke of his neighbors by their first names and told us that they all watch out for each other. David volunteered to be part of our team. We began and ended our walk in front of David's house. When we were getting ready to leave, David's wife approached and identified herself as the daughter of one of our former beloved public safety chaplains, Bill Lee. Her dad passed away a couple of years ago. We reminisced fondly about her father. We hugged and said our goodbyes. 

We encountered Kelly and Mark. Both thought their neighborhood was improving albeit Kelly spoke of a past involving her ex-husband and his brother that apparently resulted in several responses by police. Life is good now. Both Kelly and Mark excitedly volunteered to help. Kelly agreed to be an Angel - a person who supports those who come to our safety and justice center for addiction treatment. She has been involved in other community-wide efforts. She especially likes going to City Council meetings and letting her voice and thoughts be known. She is already a community angel!

Megan was out in her front yard pulling out what connects all of Colorado together - bind weed. She graciously took time to talk with us. She self-described herself as a "home-body" but quickly volunteered to be a part of building our community's social fabric.

Steve was taking a walk when we encountered him. It was a relatively quick conversation, but we were able to land another volunteer to help out. 

Perhaps a close cousin to kindness is generosity. Generosity conveys a sense of lavishness, bountiful-ness and abundancy. In the context of community-service, we found several people willing to be generous with their time, resources and expertise for the good of the whole. Speaking of kindness and generosity, Rachel and Morning Glory took time on a Sunday morning to join us not for any self-gain but to make an offering of their humanness to our Belonging Revolution. We are grateful! 

 

Morning Glory Farr

Member of the Philanthropiece Advisory Board

It was a pleasure to join Mike and Dan on their Sunday walk and to feel that I was a small part of the “Belonging Revolution”. I felt that we came across a nice cross-section of residents, from one renter to several home-owners, from life-long Longmont residents to newer transplants, from a young couple to a man in his 80s. Of the people we encountered, I was moved by Kelly, a young woman who had numerous interactions with the police because of her former brother-in-law’s involvement with drug use. Even with numerous police encounters, Kelly was able to say that she had experienced mostly positive interactions with Longmont police and even named one officer as a particularly caring officer. I was also struck by Kelly’s history of being involved in the community, including going to city council meetings and speaking on behalf of issues that were important to her. She also agreed to be an “angel” for Longmont’s drug recovery program. I was impressed with her willingness to make her voice be heard in the community, even though she is a relatively new member of the Longmont community.

And then there was the memorable Gene, the man in his 80s who had a yard full of classic cars. He offered such an interesting perspective, given that he has lived in Longmont since it was a town of about 12,000 people and now has a population of over 100,000. While some of his opinions were not particularly “politically correct”, I think it is enriching to have his voice be represented in the larger community conversation, as he has seen the evolution of Longmont over such a vast amount of time. It’s important to reflect on the past as Longmont moves into the future.

However, even with all the interesting residents we met, the thing that will stay with me the most from our walk on Sunday was the incredible dynamic that Mike and Dan create together. What a pair! Like peanut butter and jelly, milk and cookies, chips and salsa, they compliment each other so well and make the walk as effective and enriching as it is. As we would approach each person, Mike would announce himself as the “Chief of Police” and I noticed with most people a bit of hesitancy or uncertainty upon hearing this. I myself feel that if I was in my yard and someone walked up mentioning they were the Chief of Police, I would immediately think, “What’s wrong? Did someone get hurt, did my neighbors have a complaint, are the registrations on my car current?” Police often seem to be around where there is something ‘wrong’ and so, I would see the looks of uncertainty on people’s faces as we approached. However, as we would greet the person, Dan would jump in and introduce himself as a member of the community and explain the intention of the Sunday walks and Mike’s genuine interest in hearing the voices of the community. This was so important, because it allowed the people we were approaching to relax and realize that, in fact, the Chief of Police was there to have a conversation.  And from there, we could have genuine interactions with the residents, where they could openly voice their thoughts, their concerns, their hopes. It is because of Mike and Dan together that the “Belonging Revolution” is such a special experience.  Muchos gracias!

 

Rachel Fuchs

Member of the Philanthropiece Advisory Board and Intercambio Director of Programs

Sunday’s walk both affirmed assumptions I’ve had about community, while surprising me in several ways. During our 2-hour walk in the neighborhood surrounding 12th and Bross, we made 5 stops, speaking with 6 Longmont residents. The interplay of personalities helped put people at ease, while encouraging them to take our conversations seriously. One of the main assumptions affirmed – at least partly – by this experience was the notion that people want to be involved, but need an invitation to do so. Mike invited 5 of the 6 individuals we spoke with to sign on with his mission and they all willingly obliged. They each had a range of existing involvement – from a self-acclaimed “home body” to a (former) regular at city council meetings. Yet, Mike and Dan’s invitation to connect again was met with enthusiasm.

One surprising observation was that each person we met knew at least some of their neighbors. However, not all neighborly experiences had been positive and, as a result, only half of our conversations provided me a convincing narrative that they felt “connected” with those near whom they live. I subscribe strongly to the belief that our neighbors define both how we feel about our community and how we see ourselves, so I found this realization to be eye-opening, disappointing, and understandable. While Dan and Mike are working diligently to help people feel they belong to their city, I wonder whose responsibility it is to help people feel they belong to their neighborhood. And, further, what that level of belonging could do to further Dan and Mike’s efforts.

Sparking this inquiry was that in our 2-hour walk along 8 blocks, we only came upon people at 5 stops. For a beautiful, late-summer Sunday morning I would expect more people outside enjoying their community. It’s hard not to wonder what spending time outside could do to inspire connectedness.

The last surprising experience I’ll define was that people generally had a positive notion of the police in their community. While two did express regular contact with law enforcement, neither was overly negative about those experiences. It seemed that people trusted that those responsible for public safety were doing the best they could and that their “best” was pretty darn good. In an era where a general distrust of government is palpable, this was a welcome realization