Golly gee it was a hot Sunday for a neighborhood walk but never the less a beautiful day. And what fit in oh so well with me about this Sunday neighborhood walk was an incident that occurred on my own early morning unaccompanied walk that made me know that for sure our Belonging Revolution was working. As I was walking down the street I was passing by a rather old 4 door car the windows were rolled down and as I was passing the car a lady in the car called out to me “Hi Dan, how are you?” She knew me and we had a nice talk and she also knew about our walks she said how great they were, that she was homeless at one time in her life and how good it was that someone like Chief Butler not only did good police work but cared about the people and the man next to her who cannot walk anymore said “Yes he is one great man” and it was apparent to me they were making it only day to day and as I left we all smiled and said we would stay in contact.
And how the people we met all loved Longmont said it was growing ever so much but that it still had its old town pleasant atmosphere. And how nice the lady sharing with us that she was a child therapist. And Oh, how refreshing and how delightful it was when we were walking back to our cars a Latino man pulled up in his car and with a big smile on his face gave us a happy greeting out the window of his car wow! how cool that was as we had met and talked with him last Sunday on our neighborhood walk just a few blocks away. Chief Butlers “Belonging Revolution” is for real and is working!
And thank you Judy Wong for walking with us. Judy is presently President of Eco Cycle and is an environmental professional with 35 years of public service, retiring in May 2014. Her most recent position was Assistant Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Denver. And Judy and I have shared with each other and I know she and her family have “Walked the walk” from China Town in California to success in our great country!
There are times in my life when the sacredness and the preciousness of each person I meet is so profound and so wondrous that I can viscerally feel the connection between us. When that happens the depth of that connection is not something words can describe. I felt that connection with those we met on Sunday as we continued to walk Dan’s neighborhood.
The people we met were engaged, introduced us to family members, welcomed us to the neighborhood, and invited us to come into their homes. Those we met were not in the mode of protecting themselves from strangers as much as they were welcoming to strangers - namely the three of us - Dan, Judy and me. And each of us felt warmth, welcomed, and that we belonged in that neighborhood. Truly, there was a welcome sign at the edge of their neighborhood. It was as if we came to the right place and were affirmed for that choice.
Diane, Jessica, Jenny and Guadeloupe were some of those we met Sunday. Their authentic qualities of aliveness, care for others, and seeing new possibilities for their neighborhood and our community were inspiring! They are examples of how authentic community can occur!
I have found that there are certain conversations that have little life to them and have very little power and entail no accountability. Telling history, giving explanations and opinions, blaming and complaining, retelling the same stories, making reports and descriptions, carefully defining terms and conditions are attributes of conversations that, for me, minimally resonate as they are relatively benign and contribute little to transformation.
Conversations that produce more than just talk are those that involve possibilities, commitment, gifts, ownership, dissent and invitation. Inherent in these conversations are deep connection, relatedness, increased tolerance, understanding and love, as well as the creation of a new future. The conversations we have on our Sunday walks are driven by questions and an initiate community where commitment and accountability are ingrained. Our Belonging Revolution conversations overcome fragmentation and creates a space for intentional possibilities. Again, so much more to say.
Judy Wong - President Board of Directors - Eco Cycle
I have come to know Dan Benavidez over the last few years serving with him on the board of Eco-Cycle. During this time, he has shared his passion for inclusion and for partnering with Chief Butler to help his community be one where everyone feels that he or she belongs. I found it remarkable that Chief Mike Butler and Dan have walked Longmont neighborhoods to engage with people on Sundays for nearly five years! Dan invited me to join them and I’m grateful for the chance to do it yesterday.
Despite the heat, we met many people in Dan’s neighborhood who were gardening, returning from a walk or just hanging out. Everyone was welcoming and appreciated the chance to talk one-on-one with the Chief of Public Safety. Mike was down to earth and genuine in wanting to know how they viewed their neighborhood and Longmont in general. He also asked if they’ve ever experienced any discrimination. In some instances, when the neighbor felt more comfortable with Spanish, Dan served as translator, a big help!
Without exception, every person loved his or her neighborhood and living in Longmont and had never felt discriminated against or treated unfairly. They all felt safe. That says so much about Longmont and its residents.
It was heartening too to hear about their commitment to making things better, from Diane the child therapist who hopes for mental health services that are available to people of all incomes, to Guadalupe, a recent high school graduate who will start training to become a dental hygienist. She noted that her class has almost no other students of color. Guadalupe wants this to change and as an active community volunteer, she’s ready to do her part.
Though it wasn’t the main focus of our walk, Dan and I had the opportunity to ask several residents about recycling and whether they knew of Eco-Cycle. They proudly pointed to their blue-lidded bins and said half their waste was recycled! I explained that the City of Longmont provides collection services and educational outreach and that the collected recyclables go to the recycling center operated by Eco-Cycle.
Thank you, Mike and Dan, for including me. And thanks to Dan’s neighbors for making me feel so welcome!