I recalled about a year or so ago another walk in a Longmont neighborhood where a major tragedy occurred, and we walked there in this neighborhood as Mike wanted to be there to sooth the neighbors and for them to be assured that he cared about them. So when Mike informed me where we would be walking last Sunday the 6th of May and as soon as I arrived at 1209 Tulip I knew that once again this great caring Chief of Public Safety Mike Butler had selected this neighborhood because this is the neighborhood where Rita Gutierrez lives or God forbid lived because unfortunately she may no longer be alive and he was there to sooth the neighbors and he assured them (as he has done in the past) that he cares for them! Thank you, Mike, for doing this, as for sure you really care about us!
And what I continue to observe and what comes to mind is the people we met and talked to last Sunday and those we have met through the years on our Sunday neighborhood walks was how great it is that here is a very visible Chief of Public Safety, who cares about the people so much that he will spend his Sunday mornings walking in our Diverse Longmont neighborhoods! Making us all feel that we belong! Our neighbors talk with him, share with him tell him about their lives their hurts their feelings and with few and I mean few exceptions all love living Longmont. And here was this Sunday morning in this neighborhood where many shared with him about their neighbor Rita Gutierrez that oh my how caring and good that was that Mike was there to listen and share with them that he cares! Thank you, Mike, for once again walking in a neighborhood to be with the neighbors and to assure them that you were there to listen and help them cope with the tragedy that is occurring in regard to their neighbor Rita Gutierrez.
And then to walk in the surrounding neighborhood and listen and share with the neighbors!
And gosh! We are in just a few months will be starting Chief Mike Butlers 5th year of walking on Sundays in Longmont neighborhoods wow is that cool or what!!!
Several weeks ago, Rita Gutierrez was reported as missing. Rita has three children and many friends. Rita has yet to be found and the prevailing story in our community is that she is not alive. Needless to say, this event has been very disturbing to our community and heart wrenching for her family, friends and neighbors. As public safety chief, I can assure all that we gave everything we had and are not giving up the possibility of finding Rita and solving this case. We have leads.
With that said, I suggested to Dan that we walk the neighborhood where Rita and her children lived. Perhaps we could provide some comfort and let people know they are very much part of our community’s social fabric. It is also a neighborhood that receives many requests for public safety services. 1209 Tulip is the address of the apartment complex Dan, Tom (my neighbor) and I walked on Sunday. We also walked a couple of streets surrounding 1209 Tulip.
We met many people on our walk. Several of those we met mentioned Rita and concern about what happened. We met two men who self-admitted they had spent time in prison and wanted to take a different path. One of those men was more reticent than the other to talk with us. Neither wanted their photo taken with us. The one man who wanted to talk with us initially rebuffed us and went inside his home. About 30 minutes later, he emerged and apologized for his rudeness and we subsequently entered into a lively conversation about multiple subjects.
We met several others who wanted to speak with us and said yes to our invitation to help out more with our community. When I make the invitation, I let people know that while we have a great community, we also have social and health issues no different than any other community. I mentioned people struggling with their mental health, addiction and homelessness. And as a side note, the Boulder County United Way organization has agreed to do all the follow up contacts to those people who do say yes to our invitation.
There was one young lady who has been renting a home in Longmont for 3 years and is in her senior year at the University of Colorado. Her enthusiasm to be more helpful in our community was amazing!
As a reminder, our walks are about encouraging people to believe and feel they belong to our community. Dan and I purposely select neighborhoods that may, from the outside looking in, seem marginalized or disenfranchised. We often select neighborhoods that may lack in material abundancy but as we have discovered, do not lack in their desire to create a new future in their neighborhood and our community! And this last Sunday’s walk was no exception.
There is a neighborhood ideal we all believe in, but it is usually a whisper. When people are given an opportunity to speak up for this ideal, the voices we encounter on our walks speak of their gifts, their hospitality, their relationships and living by the habits of their hearts.
Our walks create a safe place so people can give voice to their perspectives and their desire and power to create a full and complete life in their neighborhood. They know that when they join together with their family and neighbors, they can become the architects of the future they want to live within. Such a future is made possible through the untapped gifts, expertise and resources of each neighborhood we walk within.
We believe our Belonging Revolution can help repair the cut in the social fabric of any one neighborhood and bring life to the abundance that each neighborhood already possesses.
Walking with Mike Butler and Dan Benavidez
One of the first things I noticed was my own reaction to the process. At first I felt quite embarrassed about walking up to people that I did not know into a conversation that they didn’t elicit. The practice cracked a wall of reserve that would normally have kept me at arm’s length from many of these neighbors of mine. It revealed how I often don’t connect through some sense of reserve or misplaced politeness. I was surprised at the degree to which people were willing to talk.
I noticed that some people were quite willing, almost eager, to talk. I noticed that others did not seem to wish to talk at first, but relaxed and engaged more as the conversation went on. It seemed to me that women were by and large more willing to talk then men. In our walk, several men declined to talk, and several who agreed to talk declined to be photographed. I noticed that both the men who declined to be photographed identified themselves as former inmates of prison. Another man was only willing to be photographed once he knew what the photo would be used for.
It seemed to me that almost everyone was glad that Mike was walking the neighborhood. For some, especially the ones that had been reluctant to talk at first, it became a way to vent a little bit. I inferred that they felt good that they were being heard by someone in power – someone who might be able to address their concerns effectively. I also inferred that it was somewhat of a relief to have someone in power listen to them without their having to go through the process of attending a public hearing.
I inferred a disparity in income between the homeowners and the renters and noticed some differences in the concerns that the two groups voiced.
I was surprised at how many people agreed to be available to be contacted. Again, I noticed that men seemed to be a little less interested in signing up. The women who declined generally seemed to do so because they were already over committed in volunteerism. When Mike asked if he could call people for help, it wasn’t clear what kind of help he might be asking for, and I wondered if that vagueness made people uneasy. I know it would make me uneasy to be on such an unspecified call and email list. Personally, I would prefer to be steered to a website where I might opt in to various activities. Of course, then I would have to confess that, like the other men who did not opt in, I might never get around to volunteering.
Overall, I was glad that I went on the walk, and was glad to be exposed to a group of neighbors that I might otherwise never meet. I think that these neighborhood walks are a very good thing, and I applaud Mike and Dan for doing them.