/ An Infinite Number Of Small Steps

Walk 6-3-2018

Dan Benavidez

What a very nice pleasant walk this Sunday walk was in my barrio (neighborhood) I enjoyed so much listening to the neighbors and watching the surprised look on their faces when I introduced them to Chief Butler and Council Member Marcia Martin and Dana Walters from Voices for Children CASA. And how good it was and thank you Dana for helping me with the Spanish interpretation when needed. And with all the racial and other turmoil going on in our Country that it is not the *“End of the world as we know it” as I just know that our neighborhood walks are indeed a “Belonging Revolution” and for sure are the “start of a world as we know it where our neighbors know that they for sure “BELONG”.

And how I just know our future is looking good when we met and talked to the young Latino who just graduated from Silver Creek High School, and is going to Front Range Community College and the great smile on his face when I told him he would was going to be our next President of the U.S.

And how totally right on it was when last Saturday when I was accompanying Chief Butler on a walk at Golden Ponds we noticed a Police car parked on the road next to pond two at Golden Ponds and police officer Nathan Macciato in full Uniform teaching and helping Rigo a young Latino man how to fly fish It just does not get any better than that!

And thank you ever so much Longmont City Council Member Marcia Martin and Dana Walters from Casa Voices for Children for accompanying us on our neighborhood walk and talking and sharing with our neighbors you da best!

*Songwriters: John Michael Stipe / Michael E. Mills / Peter Lawrence Buck / William Thomas Berry

Mike’s Perspective

We walked a neighborhood in south central Longmont on Sunday. It was a neighborhood full of duplex’s and apartment complexes. It was a warm day and the neighborhood was teeming with people! We met some remarkable people. If the readers have not noticed and just for clarification, everyone we meet is remarkable! (HINT FOR ALL OF US). City Council Person Marcia Martin and Dana Walters from CASA joined us.

And following the truth that everyone we meet is remarkable, we believe our Belonging Revolution values, invests in, and recognizes the gifts of our community’s residents. In certain ways we offer choice, power and opportunities to those we meet. We create a space for something new to occur as people believe and realize that their voice counts, their thoughts matter and that their humanness is valued. And these attributes were in their fullest glory during this Sunday walk!

Perhaps the most remarkable story was about a man named Angel. Many years ago, our police services arrested Angel for illicit narcotics distribution multiple times. He was a significant mover of narcotics in our community and struggling with addiction. Over the years, Angel has turned his life around and we met him Sunday as they were preparing for his son’s (Alex) high school graduation. Angel was engaging, happy, complimentary of police and what gave me the most exhilaration - he enthusiastically said yes to our invitation to become more involved with our community as we work with people struggling with addiction, their mental health and homelessness.

We had the opportunity to speak with the congregation of a neighborhood church and listened to stories from various members. What a delight that was! We met Tommie, Linda and others who were quite forthcoming about their lives and concerns in their respective neighborhoods.

And we met Oscar and his family during a yard sale - both Dana and Marcia made purchases. Oscar, while a young man, was charismatic, articulate, wise to the ways of the world and full of great energy! Oscar said yes to our invitation to become more active in our community.

What makes community building so complex is that it occurs in an infinite number of small steps, sometimes in quiet moments that we notice out of the corner of our eye, it calls for us to treat as important many things that we thought were incidental? An afterthought becomes the point; a comment made in passing defines who we are more than all that came before. The key to transforming community, then, is to see the power in the small but important elements of being with others. The shift we seek needs to be embodied in each invitation we make, each relationship we encounter, and each conversation we have with others.

The social fabric of community is formed from an expanding sense of belonging. It is shaped by the idea and ideal that only when we are connected and care for the well-being of the whole that a civil and caring community is created. It is like that belief that no one can enter Nirvana until all others have gone before us.

Council Member Marcia Martin (Longmont, Ward 2)

Chief of Public Safety Mike Butler and his friend Dan Benavidez have walked the neighborhoods of Longmont together on pleasant Sunday mornings for nearly five years. Last Sunday I joined them for the first time, but not for the last. Also walking with us was Dana Walters, a program director for CASA of Boulder County. CASAs are Court-Appointed Special Advocates for children who may be suffering abuse. Dana is the program director of this volunteer organization. We were both walking to learn from the people of the neighborhood, and to learn why Mike and Dan take their walks. The message of these walks is important to me, and I hope the people of Longmont who received it think it is important, too.

We all met at the corner of Grand Avenue and Bowen Street. I had canvassed that neighborhood last September, walking alone, running for the City Council seat in which I now serve. Bowen was a hard street to canvass because most of the dwellings are four-family apartment buildings, with steps up to the top level and down to the garden-level lower units. But today it was sunny and pleasant, and families were outdoors.

There was a yard sale on the corner where we met. Two sisters sat in the yard, which was spread with a pretty impressive variety of stuff for sale. I spotted a table-top ironing board for $1. I needed it – but I only had $20 bills in my wallet, which would have seriously depleted the sisters’ supply of change. Kindly Mr. Benavidez had a dollar, so he paid the girls. Dan, I owe you one!

While we stood and chatted a mother, father, brother, and two young friends all appeared.  Chief Butler introduced us all and began to explain why we were visiting. This family was more comfortable in Spanish than English, so Dan translated. I can halfway follow a conversation in Spanish but can’t string together a sentence to save my life. So mostly l listened. Chief Butler likes to ask three questions. He asks how people feel about living in Longmont, and if they feel safe, and if they feel they belong. But then he assures these Spanish-speaking people that he is not concerned with anyone’s immigration status, and that his police and firefighters treat everyone the same. In Longmont, nobody needs to be afraid of calling for help when they need it. The City safety forces don’t work with ICE.

We walked a few blocks south, conducting more conversations, half-English and half-Spanish. The families we met were usually extended, with three or four generations present. One family, living in both sides of a duplex, was putting together a graduation party for a middle son, who is looking forward to starting at Front Range in the fall. His older brother’s tiny daughter, beautiful in a pink dress and waist-length black hair, runs back and forth while we talk. Grandpa is open about his immigration status. I guess he’s confident that he belongs in Longmont. I certainly am. I tell the graduate that I went to Front Range’s commencement ceremony last month, and how it was the most inspiring such event I ever saw. Chief Butler tries to interest him in police work.

An uncle drives up with a party tent for the back yard. The young men move off to help him. It’s time for us to cross the street and meet the congregation of Twin Peaks Church of Christ. Then the walk will be over, and I’ll go back to pick up my little ironing board and rush off to the rest of the day – two more gatherings, old friends to greet, more new friends to meet. There’s a lot going on in Longmont.

Council Member Marcia Martin (Longmont, Ward 2)

Dana Walters - Voices For Children CASA

I work with Voices for Children CASA, a program that trains volunteers to advocate for kids who have been abused or neglected.  There are about 240 CASA volunteers in Boulder County, over half of whom live in Longmont, so I was honored to have the opportunity to walk with Dan Benavidez and Chief Butler and meet some Longmont residents.  We were blessed with a beautiful sunny morning, and the people we met were both friendly and chatty—they talked about family, schools, jobs, and safety. 

At CASA, we think about community safety all the time.  Communities as a whole can never be 100% safe—too much about the world is beyond our control (like the weather).  When kids feel safe they have better quality of life, and the same is pretty much true for people of all ages.  For me to feel safe, I want to know that I am supported, and I want to know who to ask for help when I need it.  It was neat to see how people connected to a group of visitors that included a former city council member, a current city council member, and the Chief of Police.  These are good people to ask for help.

Dan Benavidez and Chief Butler have been doing neighborhood walks in Longmont for nearly five years, and you can tell that they are pros at talking to strangers.  In fact, the people we met this morning didn’t feel like strangers—one resident mentioned that his mom spoke with Chief Butler on a recent walk, and another group invited us inside their church.  All three groups of people included longtime Longmont residents- people who said they’d lived here for decades and that they love the city.  We met several young people who had terrific charisma, some proud parents, a very talented gardener, and an entire congregation that has been worshipping together and supporting each other for years.

I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to join a Sunday morning walk- its civic engagement on a very personal level, and it's a great way to get to know a neighborhood better.