Yes, you must have faith! What a spiritual and heartening walk this past Sunday
was to me! as I had been down due to racial issues for quite some time but after this walk and I just knew it’s going to be okay. It was enjoyable talking with the neighbors at St. Vrain Village which we had walked in sometime in the past and who one of the neighbors recognized us and was pleased that we were back again. And them sharing with us about their children going to school and understanding how hard they are working to just make it from day to day and the Latinos we met this time with a few exceptions were bi lingual and how they to a person told us that they had not felt or experienced being discriminated against in Longmont because they were Latinos and all felt they belonged and loved Longmont! One Latino told us he had been to several middle of the Country Northern States and yes, he felt big time discrimination there.
However, our walk was also very saddening in that practically all yes all who we talked to in the Village complained stridently about the homeless persons living nearby the river practically next door, and of the RV’s packed with people and others living in the bushes on the street next to the railroad tracks and next to the village that they were defecating, urinating all over the place and that their children were scared. That there were also hypodermic needles scattered throughout the neighborhood.
I have also witnessed this to some degree in my neighborhood and in addition for months now as we have walked in the neighborhoods we have witnessed and received complaints and frustrations from many, of our neighbors and fellow citizens that this homeless problem and the issues as of the result of this prevalent problem appears no longer to be just localized in certain neighborhoods but appears to maybe become a major issue throughout our City.
And thank you so very much Livia Hall for walking with us. It was a delight having you accompanying us on our walk!
Thank you, Dan Benavidez
Since the beginning of our walks over three years ago, the purpose of our Belonging Revolution has been about the importance of social capital (our community’s resources, expertise, skills and gifts) and the significant impact it can have in our community. We realize there are way too many people in our community whose gifts remain in the margin. We believe people will offer their gifts if they believe they belong to our community. Filling the need for belonging is not just a personal struggle for connection, but also a community problem which is why Dan and I walk every Sunday morning. And to enhance our efforts, the staff from our public safety department in Longmont (300 plus people) are now walking neighborhoods. And we hope soon, many more staff from the City of Longmont municipal government will also be walking neighborhoods! Community offers the promise of belonging and calls for us to acknowledge our interdependence. To belong is to act as an owner and co-creator of our community. To be welcome, even if we are strangers. As if we came to the right place and are affirmed for that choice!
This past Sunday, Dan, Livia and I walked a mobile home park in the middle of town, the St. Vrain Village. There are approximately 150 homes in this park. We met with several people and each and every conversation was rich in its own unique way. Again and again, we encounter people who are so willing to engage and to share their hopes, their dreams and their pain. Sunday’s walk was emblematic of the openness and the welcome we receive on all of our walks. I have said before that meeting strangers, creating a dialogue and potentially a life-long relationship is a lost art. People are so hungry to connect, very willing to tell their stories, so unabashed to reveal their secrets. Again, I am going to emphatically state that the role of leaders in our society needs to change. Leaders need to get really good at asking powerful questions, skilled in convening, to value the relatedness of all, and be clear about their intentions. The possibilities of community lie not in the development of government or in the hands of experts or in the efficiency of our systems but in hearts, minds and souls of everyday people in our community. We need to embrace the ideal and idea that the social fabric of community is formed by an expanding shared sense of belonging. It is shaped by the idea that only when we are connected and care for the well-being of the whole that democracy thrives. None of us can enter Nirvana until all others have gone before us!
The prevailing theme of our conversations with the people who live in St. Vrain Village were concerns related to folks struggling with homelessness. Equally stressed was the belief on the part of everyone that they wanted and could make a difference in their community. Everyone we spoke with, except for one family (three young kids and two jobs), accepted our invitation to be part of future conversations that could create a future in Longmont that is different than our past or the present. Their gifts and their willingness to make an offering of their gifts is truly profound!
Again, EVERYONE has gifts! In our attraction to problems, deficiencies, disabilities, and needs, the missing community conversation is about gifts. It seems the only cultural practices that focus on gifts are retirement parties and funeral. We only express gratitude for people’s gifts when they are on their way out or gone. In our Belonging Revolution, we focus on the gifts people have rather than their needs or deficiencies. We believe that the greatest change comes from leveraging our gifts and not from the commodification of the plight of the human condition. Those we spoke with on Sunday in St. Vrain Village were hungry to have their voices heard and to know their thoughts mattered! Among many others, Joe, Tabitha, Juan, Liz, Alvaro, Maryann and John all said yes to our invitation.