It was nice warm day this last Sunday morning and we revisited a neighborhood we had walked in about 2 years ago. And wow! As I drove to the neighborhood we were going to walk in I realized than since we started our neighborhood walks that we have walked in over 170 neighborhoods and have met approximately 3,000 people! And how very nice it was as walked down the neighborhood street and I see that a breakfast type gathering was taking place with much good food, in the backyard of a home on the block and I asked the lady walking into the back yard where the gathering was taking place if I could Introduce Mike Butler the Longmont Chief of Police and Fire department to them as he would like to meet them and she said ”Claro que si “ (of course) and we had such a pleasing time sharing and talking with the people there all who spoke mainly Spanish who were having a memorial type breakfast for the sister of one of them who had died a week ago.
And how totally enjoyable it was when we entered the little church on Lashley Street (where all spoke Spanish) and I apologized to the pastor and the church gathering for our interrupting their church service that was taking place and asked the pastor if he would allow Mike Butler the chief of Police and Fire Department to address the congregation and he said “Si” And Mike addressed the congregation telling them about belonging and our walking the neighborhoods on Sundays and he was so well received.
And how nice talking to the senior citizen Lady and the others on our walk.
Yes, it’s all about belonging and acceptance on all treks of life. Thank you, Chief Mike Butler, for making this happen since July 2014!
It was a very, very good Sunday walk!
And thank you! Kathleen Thurmes East County Zero Waste Coordinator Eco-Cycle, Inc. for accompanying Chief Butler and me on our Sunday walk it was a pleasure having you with us on our walk and hope you will join us again on a future Sunday walk.
I can remember staying at my grandparent’s house on occasional weekends when I was a young boy. They lived near a railroad track. It was not uncommon for someone, not known to my grandparents, to knock at their door and to say they just hopped off the train and they were hungry. Without hesitation, my grandparents invited the men (never saw a woman) into their home and given something to eat. Sometimes, they spent the night before they continued on their journey especially during the bone-chilling cold of Ohio winters. What I remember the most is how my grandparents encouraged them to feel as if they belonged and were cared for. Stories of lives were exchanged and these men often revealed their pain and their hopes. I was fascinated by their stories and often wondered what would become of them. Never once did I feel fear. And as long as they were in my grandparents’ home, they were safe from any harm! There were no strangers in my grandparent’s lives. Their love for others was without bounds. These experiences helped shape how I lived my life and is perhaps one of the reasons why I love to walk Longmont neighborhoods every Sunday.
During our walk this last Sunday, Dan, Kathleen and I were treated similarly - and not as strangers. The first occasion was when we visited Luis and his family at his home. Luis, a cook at Janie’s Cafe, was in his backyard making burritos and hash browns for his family when we arrived. We learned their purpose for gathering this Sunday morning was to celebrate the life of a sister who died nine days ago at the age of 43. So, as entered their backyard, we felt welcomed,; we were offered food(which I accepted); we shared stories(Luis and Dan were the only bilingual people) as if we have known each other for years and everyone gathered for a family(including us) photo. We were treated like la familia. As we left Luis’ backyard, everyone wished us well. Our worlds were made smaller, safer and more satisfying. I had a spring in my step as I left.
The next occasion was when we visited a small neighborhood church. Dan, Kathleen and I entered the church during their services. Pastor Jose graciously acknowledged our presence and warmly invited us to participate. The people in the congregation turned to see us and greeted us with welcoming smiles. We asked if we could have a few minutes to explain our presence and Pastor Jose momentarily stopped his sermon and invited us to talk to the congregation. Some might think we interrupted their time; Pastor Jose and those present made us feel as if we belonged and as if our choice to be in their midst was what they had hoped for. It was amazing! I remember walking up to the altar for a photo everyone agreed to be in and, as I was making my way, an older woman touched my arm. When I looked to see who it was, I saw the eyes of my grandmother looking at me. I felt I belonged and I felt cared for.
We met others during our walk as well and, again on this Sunday, we were affirmed for the choice we made to be in this neighborhood.
Every Sunday, our Belonging Revolution walks reveal the kindness, generosity and gifts of so many people in our community. Without fail, we feel the hospitality of people in each neighborhood we walk. Our community is filled with loving hospitality. As Henri Nouwen said,
“The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness — not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs; speak their own languages; dance their own dances; free also to leave and follow their own vocations.
Kathleen Thurmes East County Zero Waste Coordinator Eco-Cycle, Inc.
I had been hearing about the Belonging Revolution walks since the day I started working for Eco-Cycle, a local non-profit dedicated to Zero Waste advocacy in Boulder County, over a year and a half ago. Dan Benavidez, being a long-time champion of recycling and composting issues in Longmont and a member of Eco-Cycle’s board of directors, invited me to join him on one of his walks when I met with him to introduce myself as a new Eco-Cycle employee.
It was a gorgeous Sunday morning. Not too hot, not too cool, and a characteristically sunny Longmont day. The neighborhood that Dan and Chief Butler chose to walk in was an apartment complex near to downtown. Our walk ended up spilling out into the primarily Spanish-speaking neighborhood after we took a lap around the whole complex and encountered very few people.
What struck me most about the experience was the dedication and passion that Dan and Chief Butler bring to their work. Every person they saw on the street was someone they wanted to talk to. There were no exceptions. There were definitely some people who gave off “don’t talk to me” vibes, but even they got at least a friendly “good morning!” if not the whole Belonging Revolution experience.
Chief Butler and Mr. Benavidez have created a unique program for reaching out to the residents of Longmont. They’ve been walking the streets almost every Sunday morning for the past five years, occasionally repeating a neighborhood so that they can catch new people as they go about their daily lives. They introduce themselves, hand out business cards, and stick around talking with folks about their experiences in Longmont. The Belonging Revolution truly is a heart-forward effort to build up social capital in the neighborhoods of Longmont and to spread the message: “You belong here.”