What another ever so enjoyable and great Longmont neighborhood walk last Sunday!
YES, more than ever I deeply believe that Chief Mike Butler was and is ever so right on with his “Belonging Revolution”. And how wonderful it was when the 2 gentlemen shared with us how grateful they were for Mike coming down in their front yard to share with them, one of them having lived in Longmont all his life and his parents were Longmont pioneers. And How good it was meeting with the man presently serving in the U.S Air force and who has been in the Air Force for 13 years and who travels in his electric car daily to the Air Force base in Denver and his total regard for the environment and sustainability, and who will soon be leaving the Air Force and has accepted Mike’s invitation to volunteer for community service (as did almost all the others we meet and shared with) he even shared he had dreams of becoming a Police Officer.
And how nice it was to meet and share with the Latino family and Mike assuring them not to worry about our Police that they belong! They smiled from ear to ear.
And it was so delightful that Mike, Sarah and I were so accepted and appreciated by those we met and shared with in the East 4th Avenue neighborhood we walked in and for sure and I mean for sure those from our minority community we met all feel they have not been and are not discriminated against in our great City or for that matter Boulder City or the County because of their race, and they Love Longmont and feel they belong! It’s hard to get any better than that!
And thank you Sarah Levison for walking with us.
Thank you, Dan Benavidez
In light of what happened in Las Vegas on Sunday evening, I wanted to send a piece I wrote a few months ago.
As we are bombarded by information that dramatizes the human condition, markets fear, assigns blame and exploits the wounds of our country, we need to keep in mind that our world is truly one that is full of light with some dark spots, not one that is dark with a few light spots. We need to sharpen our focus on what is good in our midst. Many will try to convince us that our country is a problem to be solved and not a country full of possibilities. Authors, talking heads and syndicated columnists will discuss all of our ills as if they are the norm and not a mere fraction of our existence. Again, I offer that for every bad thing that happens, there are a thousand good things that happen as well. Dan and I see this every single Sunday. Love to all.
Mike Butler: A thousand to one ... belonging revolution!
Lamenting our woes can be contagious. Misery certainly loves company. The media is happy to tell us all the reasons why we should be afraid. The drama of the human condition sells. There are those who easily exploit our fears of terrorism, immigrants, of the urban core, of African-Americans and Latinos, of other ethnicities, of those who are poor and uneducated, of other countries. In the telling, there is a willingness to sacrifice the wholeness and dignity of a person or a group for the sake of capturing the drama or emotion in the moment. There is an industry that profits off of assigning blame and marketing fear and fault.
Because of my assignment and perhaps more than anyone else in our community, I know what does not go well. I see the crime, the medical emergencies, the disorder, the traffic accidents, the domestic violence, the harm done to children and people struggling with addiction, homelessness and their mental health. Becoming cynical and stuck in the quagmire of the imperfections and humanness of people would be easy.
In our Belonging Revolution walks, Dan Benavidez and I have spoken to over 2,000 people and visited over 100 neighborhoods and four different senior living facilities. The vast majority of neighborhoods are mobile home parks and apartment complexes. The stories people shared confirmed with certainty that the gifts, possibilities, and generosity of our community are beyond immense. Almost to the person, people speak of the abundancy in their lives. They love their neighborhood and our community. And in every single neighborhood, Dan and I have been welcomed with care and kindness.
Stories of people helping others; stories of cooperation, responsibility; stories of people's gifts and hospitality; stories of connectedness and belonging; stories of welcoming strangers; stories of healing; stories of hope for their children; stories of kindness, forgiveness, generosity; stories of families helping other families — these are the stories we hear every Sunday morning in our community. On every single walk, we find connectors, gift-centered people who see the half-full in everyone, who believe in the people in our community and find joy in gathering people together.
We could go on and on about the innumerable (in the thousands) acts of kindness, generosity and selflessness we have personally documented. Here is the point. We recognize our community has deficiencies and problems. But the overpowering spotlight on what does not work or who is to blame, or the fear or the fault shines so brightly that what is good only lives in its shadows. For every act of unkindness or for what does not go well, there are at least one thousand acts of kindness and selflessness! That is a fact! Don't believe us — then we would invite you to start walking neighborhoods in our community. Meet people you've never met before.
Take the chance of leaving the comfort and familiarity of your home and your neighborhood and visit other neighborhoods. You will find that for every neighborhood, there is a welcome sign at its edge. You will see, as William Butler Yeats proclaimed, "There are no strangers here, just friends you haven't yet met."
The community we have discovered in our Belonging Revolution walks has at its center two sources of power. The first is that every person has gifts to offer. The second is that people are hungry to share their gifts with the rest of us.
We often hear the safety of any community is a function of crime stats. Look at Chicago. Chicagoans and the rest of the world portray and define their community by what does not go well (homicides and shootings). There are those willing to tell us stories of mayhem, fear and violence. These are stories filled with limitations and sorely lacking in possibilities. Possibility thinking is marginalized, relegated to human interest and side stories in the media. I know there are people who want to change the story that is told in Chicago.
The one thousand to one ratio also applies to their community. Do we want to redefine and re-portray Chicago? Do we want to minimize the violence and killings? What if we defined the safety of a community as a function of what goes well? What if the stories of Chicago were ones of possibilities, generosity and gifts of their citizens? Why can't the focus be on the thousand instead of the one?
As long as the story is about the one, our stories are really fictional in nature. The decisions to tell the stories about the one over and over again as if they were defining truths limits the possibilities of creating an alternative future. Healing is really the re-remembering of the past and the present in a more forgiving way. The willingness to own up to the fictional nature of our own stories is where the healing begins. And where new possibilities reside. If we want to create a future that is different than the past or present, we will need to learn to tell stories that reflect reality. Let our mantra be "a thousand to one."
Mike Butler is Longmont's Public Safety chief.
Sarah Levison perspective:
Belonging Revolution walk Oct. 1, 2017
Dan, Chief Butler and I met at 4th and Alpine. It was a cool and crisp morning fall was in the air.
We first met Bryce who mentioned how he can rely on his neighbors who helped spot the big branches of a tree when he was cutting so they wouldn’t damage his house or a car parked on the street. He likes the amenities that he has in Longmont: a quiet, safe neighborhood. He raved about the NextLight high speed internet and the Tinkermill makerspace he has joined. Bryce and Mike found they shared a love of astronomy and both have telescopes. On these walks, you learn new things about Dan and Mike.
Up the street, we met Oscar and Alex. Chief Butler asked them if they could guess how many officers we had patrolling the streets. They had a hard time guessing. The number is 8. Eight officers patrolling a couple of hundred miles of streets and protecting over 90,000 residents and commercial properties! Not enough they thought. Dan and I explained how we could add more officers and more safety services to the city if they vote for adding a small amount to the current Public Safety Tax. We said that for 25 cents on a purchase of $100 will give the city the money to hire enough officers, dispatchers, fire personnel and equipment to better protect our residents. They said they were going to definitely vote for the tax increase and share the information with their friends.
It is so rewarding to have this chance to talk to people in the neighborhoods. We met others who all felt they feel welcome in our city. Many people we spoke to had family visiting them from other cities. Their family members like coming to Longmont. They like it better than where they live.
In every encounter, we got positive responses from those we spoke to. A couple of issues that came up were the speed on 3rd avenue and the deteriorating condition of 4th avenue. Chief Butler will follow up with the traffic division and will contact the street department We collected the names of those residents so Mike can let them know what action will be taken.
Thank you Dan and Chief Butler for your dedication to take the time on your day off to walk our neighborhoods. Mr. Garcia that he appreciated talking to city officials at his house, informally. He can’t get down to city hall for a council meeting on Tuesday night. As a lifelong resident of Longmont, he declared he would not ever live anywhere else, no other place would have what this city offers. I agree with him, no better place to live than Longmont, Colorado.