Kathy Szenda Wilson, Director of Neighborhood Programs for the Battle Creek Community Foundation, wrote this editorial for the Battle Creek Enquirer.
In this time of limited resources it’s inherent on us to think and act collectively about the type of experience we want for our community. How will we interact with one another? How will we fill those gaps left by ever-decreasing government budgets? How will we influence where those minimal resources are allocated?
Peter Block in his book, Community: The Structure of Belonging, writes about our dependence on “experts” and challenges that everything communities need exists within themselves. Depending on experts is really just a crutch.
I have to concur with him. I’ve seen evidence of this frequently in our neighborhoods through the good work of people doing the right things for the right reasons. When people come together and decide what is possible for them, communicate about what each brings to the table, and then roll up their sleeves to get the work done.
Curious what it looks like? It can be a group who spends Saturdays learning how to repair their homes, the parents who come together with teachers to put together packets for students so that they can learn throughout the summer, the neighbors who band together to bring the Creekside community garden back to life, the local pastor who buys and distributes candy to all of her neighbors so that the kids in her neighborhood can trick or treat safely, the young man who rallies 15 elementary school kids every morning before they get on the bus to make sure they all ate, did their homework and have their shoes tied – giving them the pep talk many need to get through their day, the parents who spend so much of their time making sure that our local youth know there are alternatives to violence and gangs, the neighbors who come together to mow their boulevards, and the boxing coach who gives his all to every kid who walks through his gym door even though he is quietly fighting for his own life.
I’m increasingly optimistic about what’s possible when people come together and decide to be part of the necessary solutions. And what’s most incredible about these examples is that they are not extraordinary. These people, although they may identify themselves above, would most likely not consider themselves heroes and would most definitely not consider themselves experts. They are just doing what needs to be done.
We all have it in us. Sometimes we need support, sometimes we need someone to ask, sometimes we need a little money or space, but more than anything we need each other.
I spent some time recently with a group of resident leaders in San Diego and a woman named Bevelynn Bravo shared something that I believe captures the heart of it all: “I remember waiting for someone to come in and make changes. I didn’t realize that I was waiting for myself.”