The Belonging Revolution

Sean KendallDiversity

Walking the neigborhoods. Former Longmont Mayor Dan Benavidez and Police Chief Butler develop community by walking the neighborhoods.

Walk 1-19-2017

It has been quite a few Sundays due to weather and holidays that Chief Mike Butler and I have been able to do a neighborhood walk. So how nice it was when Mike called my last Thursday and said “Dan it’s going to be 60 degrees on Sunday so let’s do a neighborhood walk this coming Sunday” And I said to myself after his call Yippee! because as a result of the elections in November and as a result the madness and insurgence of racism and fear that once again has begun to surface. Yes, I needed this walk and oh! what a good feeling it was to walk again down in a beautiful Longmont Barrio”

And how good it was to have Katie Doyle Meyers walking with us she is 100% bilingual Spanish and knows the Latino culture so very well she talked to people in Spanish and it was so evident to all that she is so caring and giving! Thank you, Katie, for walking with us!

And It was ever so fulfilling listening to Mike once again meeting and talking with the neighbors and hearing Mike talk to the parishioners at Iglesias Vida Nueva church.

Yes, that’s what it is all about our walks our “Belonging Revolution” making all feel they belong It is so great being able to make all feel they belong!

Mike’s Perspective

After weeks of cold weather, it felt really good to get back into our community’s neighborhoods. We selected a neighborhood that was predominantly Latino. Those we met on this beautiful Sunday were, for the most part, quite open to conversation. Katie from Philanthropiece joined us. Her eloquent synopsis of our personal visits with people captures the essence of what we all felt and experienced.

This was a neighborhood comprised of people who knew each other(some were related). What was obvious is that they watched out for and took care of each other. We were welcomed into their neighborhood in large part because people who lived in this neighborhood seemed very secure. There was little to no talk of crime, of disorder, and of concerns with immigration. Several mentioned the comfortable relationship they had with police and the positive changes that have occurred over time. A few of those we visited lived in multigenerational homes in which grandparents and grandkids with moms/dads were present.
This is a neighborhood where people find their way and help others find theirs. Rachel, who was raised next door is now the grandmother/caretaker for her four grandchildren. Rick, Ricky and Lee are birds of the same feather as they support each other’s lives. One could easily tell that those folks within the neighborhood Iglesias Vida Nueva church were there for each other. The Pastor was very gracious in allowing us to speak with the congregation about our Belonging Revolution – a beautiful moment for all as we connected with several people from the neighborhood in one setting.
There was this overriding feeling that those in this neighborhood believed that they are enough and that what they need is in their midst. While they were gracious with us, there was an air of confidence and a sense of “we got this” when it came to their neighborhood!

Dan and Katie speak fluent Spanish and both were amazing in helping with bringing about the phenomenal connections we experienced. Our community’s neighborhoods are filled with connectors – gift-oriented people who see the half-full in their neighborhoods and their neighbors!

Katie Doyle Myers
Director of Programs
Philanthropiece Foundation

Belonging Revolution
January 29, 2017

There are countless incredible things about the Belonging Revolution, and I today I learned of a new one: these walks – this movement – reveals the teachers in our community. Today my teacher was a man named Lee. He taught me about courage and honesty and, most importantly, he prompted me to ask some critical questions. But before I give the details on these lessons, I need to start with who we met before Lee.

Dan, Mike and I met on this gorgeous sunny morning on the corner of Lashley and St. Clair streets. As we started to walk, they recounted stories of how this neighborhood has changed in the past decade; they used to have thousands of calls to the Longmont Police from this 6-block area for everything from nuisance complaints to drug dealings; there was distrust amongst the police and the neighbors. It didn’t happen from day to night, but with patience, building community partnerships, and empowering the voices of neighborhood leaders, this is a transformed community. The Longmont Police might get four or five calls a month now, neighbors look out for one another, and the wave as the police drive by.

This morning we met Ashley, a bright-eyed and self-confident Boulder native who feels safe in her home. She has a three year old and is expecting a baby boy in April; she works at UPS and is in her final year of earning her Bachelor’s in Business Administration. Ashley didn’t sense that her Latino neighbors felt fear, and she felt calm about living on her street. We met Sr. Rodrigo, a 70-year old abuelo who, while originally from México, has called Longmont home for over forty years. He was en route back to his home from visiting his son and 6-year old granddaughters who lived 3 blocks away. He recently had heart surgery, and his doctor told him to get out and walk; we were fortunate to see him today. Rodrigo’s eyes lit up as he told about how he couldn’t tell his identical-twin nietas apart from one another, and how they played tricks on their teachers. His wife gained her citizenship three years ago, and other’s in his family were on a path toward citizenship. While he was aware of the new rhetoric and policies coming out of DC, he did not feel threatened; his family is tranquilo, his life is tranquilo. They have never had a problem with the law (with the exception of a cousin who was arrested as a result of his alcoholism recently, but released on bail). Rodrigo told of his family’s unity, and of a community advocate who supported them when needed. We also met Salvador, Abel, Pastor Raymundo, and the congregation of Iglesia Nueva Vida. As Dan and Mike spoke to the congregation about the Belonging Revolution, the members nodded in appreciation and solidarity; they, too, felt safe and confident in their community.

It was about this time when I turned to Dan and Mike and said: “I notice a pattern here – folks feel good about their homes, their neighbors; they are tied closely to their families and the community. They feel like they have a positive relationship with the police and, at least at this time, don’t feel threatened by the possibility of ICE knocking on their doors.” That’s when we approached three gentlemen who were hanging around an old orange sedan. “Cómo estan?” we gestured. The one in the center, a tall thin man with his hair pulled back in a ponytail, lounging on the hood of the car responded “That’s offensive to me.” “What was offensive?” we inquired. “That you would speak to me in Spanish.” This was Lee, my master teacher for the day.

Lee wasn’t so sure about speaking with us, but his buddies, Rick and Ricky, flanked him and helped to ease the vibe. Lee wasn’t feeling great about the immigrant presence in Longmont, where he was born and raised; he had worked in drywall, and folks who came in and were willing to work for less took his job from him, he said. Now he works in demolition, but it’s only seasonal employment and doesn’t pay well. When we asked him if he felt he belonged, his gazed turned downward, he let out a big sigh, and – while it appeared he wanted to share something – no words emerged. Mike tried again, “Have you had any adverse encounters with the police?” Lee perked back up and told a story of visiting with a friend who had recently been released from prison. Upon departing from his friend on the street, he was pulled over, allegedly because of a blown out middle tail light (the left and right tail lights were working). The policeman inquired why he was talking to the other man, then further pressed Lee about a wad of cash that he had in his pocket (Lee had just been paid and was going to pay for his insurance). He couldn’t see the officer’s face, he felt unjustly targeted.

So, Lee gave me a lesson. He taught me that, even in the face of despair, one can speak up courageously. He taught me that, even when feeling fear, one can be honest. But, most importantly, Lee taught me to question all assumptions. The sunny, warm day with folks telling us that they belong, that their lives are on a positive trajectory, that they have friends and family and advocates near by, was not sunny, warm, and positive for everyone. Folks are struggling, they are confused, they are wary of their neighbors, especially those who appear different than themselves because of the language they speak or the food they eat. I don’t necessarily agree with Lee. I have more questions than answers, and I certainly don’t have all of the facts. But I do know that Lee has a different perspective than me and, if I am to stand in solidarity, I need to listen closely, to understand how he arrived at his beliefs, his situation. This was a reminder that this work of “belonging” isn’t always nice and neat; it is about listening and creating space for dialogue. And sometimes that gets messy, but we can’t give up.

Lee reminded me that there’s work to be done. And this work is the work of connecting, sobre todo, above anything. For those who know about the Belonging Revolution, who have read the stories, who have walked with Dan and Mike, the first thing they say is: we need this everywhere. The good news is, and what all of the neighbors taught me today – Lee especially – is that connecting with our fellow human beings is available to us every day, everywhere. So, connect with your neighbors, the parents at your kid’s school, the community leaders and the municipal leaders of your town. And then, go one step further to connect with the one who seems most different, most marginalized, most distant. There’s a pretty good chance that person will be your greatest teacher.

Thank you Dan and Mike, thank you to Ashley, Matt, Delaney, to Sr. Rodriguez, to the Nueva Vida congregation, to Rick, Ricky, and Lee, to Rachel and Armando (mi compañero de fútbol americano), and to the Belonging Revolution. I am honored to have the opportunity to walk, to learn, to connect with you all. And, yes, I do believe that, si – juntos – se puede.

Katie Doyle Myers
Director of Programs

Philanthropiece Foundation
6105 Monarch Road
Longmont, CO 80503
303.440.8484 (Office)
303.919.4486 (Katie cell)
www.philanthropiece.org

One Thousand to One…

Lamenting our woes can be contagious. Misery certainly loves company. The media is happy to tell us all the reasons why we should be afraid. The drama of the human condition sells. There are those who easily exploit our fears of terrorism, immigrants, of the urban core, of African-Americans and Latinos, of other ethnicities, of those who are poor and uneducated, of other countries. In the telling, there is a willingness to sacrifice the wholeness and dignity of a person or a group for the sake of capturing the drama or emotion in the moment. There is an industry that profits off of assigning blame and marketing fear and fault.

Because of my assignment and perhaps more than anyone else in our community, I know what does not go well. I see the crime, the medical emergencies, the disorder, the traffic accidents, the domestic violence, the harm done to children and people struggling with addiction, homelessness and their mental health. Becoming cynical and stuck in the quagmire of the imperfections and humanness of people would be easy.

In our Belonging Revolution walks, Dan Benavidez and I have spoken to over two thousand people and visited over one hundred neighborhoods and four different senior living facilities. The vast majority of neighborhoods are mobile home parks and apartment complexes. The stories people shared confirmed with certainty that the gifts, possibilities, and generosity of our community is beyond immense. Almost to the person, people speak of the abundancy in their lives. They love their neighborhood and our community. And in every single neighborhood, Dan and I have been welcomed with care and kindness.

Stories of people helping others; stories of cooperation, responsibility; stories of people’s gifts and hospitality; stories of connectedness and belonging; stories of welcoming strangers; stories of healing; stories of hope for their children; stories of kindness, forgiveness, generosity; stories of families helping other families – these are the stories we here every Sunday morning in our community. On every single walk, we find CONNECTORS, gift-centered people who see the half-full in everyone, who believe in the people in our community and find joy in gathering people together.

We could go on and on about the innumerable (in the thousands) acts of kindness, generosity and selflessness we have personally documented. Here is the point. We recognize our community has deficiencies and problems. But the overpowering spotlight on what does not work or who is to blame, or the fear or the fault shines so brightly that what is good only lives in its shadows. For every act of unkindness or for what does not go well, there are at least one thousand acts of kindness and selflessness! That is a fact! Don’t believe us – then we would invite you to start walking neighborhoods in our community. Meet people you’ve never met before. Take the chance of leaving the comfort and familiarity of your home and your neighborhood and visit other neighborhoods. You will find that for every neighborhood, there is a welcome sign at its edge. You will see, as William Butler Yeats proclaimed, “There are no strangers here, just friends you haven’t yet met.”

The community we have discovered in our Belonging Revolution walks has at its center two sources of power. The first is that every person has gifts to offer the rest of us. The second is that people are hungry to share their gifts with rest of us.

We often hear the safety of any community is a function of crime stats. Look at
Chicago. Chicagoans and the rest of the world portray and define their community by what does not go well (homicides and shootings). There are those willing to tell us stories of mayhem, fear and violence. These are stories filled with limitations and sorely lacking in possibilities. Possibility thinking is marginalized, relegated to human interest and side stories in the media. I know there are people who want to change the story that is told in Chicago. The one thousand to one ratio also applies to their community. Do we want to redefine and re-portray Chicago? Do we want to minimize the violence and killings? How does Chicago heal? What if we defined the safety of a community as a function of what goes well? What if the stories of Chicago were ones of possibilities, generosity and gifts of their citizens? Why can’t the focus be on the thousand instead of the one?

As long as the story is about the one, our stories are really fictional in nature. The decisions to tell the stories about the one over and over again as if they were defining truths creates the limitations against creating an alternative future. Healing is really the remembering the past and the present in a more forgiving way. The willingness to own up to the fictional nature of our own stories is where the healing begins. And where new possibilities reside. If we want to create a future that is different the past or present, we will need to learn to tell stories that reflect reality. Let our mantra be, “A THOUSAND TO ONE.”