Community Conversations Connect People
There is absolutely nothing to compete with the problem-solving effectiveness of people talking together and sharing ideas.
Community problem solving happens when ordinary citizens come together to talk about change they would like to see. Such was the case last night on our downtown square at one of our local coffee houses in Garland, Texas. Deborah Morris, one of our active local citizens who lives in the 2nd District, invited the public (with a special invitation to the Latino members of Garland) for an informal meeting to share ideas about how we might work together to make Garland more viable and inclusive for all.
One of the many things I was reminded is how few degrees of separation we have among others and ourselves. But unless we actually get out and talk with people we cannot make these connections.
Left to right: Koni Ramos-Kaiwi—Community Advocate, her son Paco, and Sandra Perez
For example, I met Koni Ramos-Kaiwi last night. Koni is an articulate community advocate for our Latino residents. I came home with one of Koni’s business cards. Words on the back of the card encapsulate the way I rather imagine that Koni lives her life. These words also mirror what I try to remember when living my own life: It only takes one person to change the world.
Not only did I learn through conversation that Koni and I have shared inspirations for our community, Charlie learned that he had an even closer connection to Koni. Koni mentioned that she is from Donna Texas. Charlie said, “Oh my sister is married to a guy from Donna. They live in Michigan now.” Turns out that Charlie’s brother-in-law is Koni’s uncle. How’s that for a tiny, connected world?
We all have special gifts to bring to the table of our community. Koni’s son, Paco, is another example. Paco has cerebral palsy and has been in a wheelchair all his life, but that has not stopped him from living a full life. Among other things, he has a college education and children. One of the suggestions from Paco was that our Garland Code Enforcement Department creates a job for an inspector solely to ensure that all our public places are accessible for people with disabilities. Paco cited a recent example from his own life: he went to the park with his nieces and nephews but he had to watch them from the curb because there was no wheelchair access to the park.
We talked about streets and sidewalks. Not all problems can be solved instantly. Sometimes our tendency is to blame “the City”, but more often than not “the City” and the residents must work together to solve these problems. And some problems are not the responsibility of our local government. For example, as Deborah Morris pointed out when the discussion turned to sidewalks: driveways and sidewalks are the responsibility of the property owner. Sometimes, people simply cannot afford such repairs. We can work together and build solutions.
Another interesting topic discussed regarded the importance of the appearance of our community. There may be some who think that making things look pretty by cleaning up our yards and planting flowers is not important. The truth is that a well-kept community sends many positive messages to the world.
Peter Kageyama (author of For the Love of Cities and The Love Affair Between People and Their Places) speaks to the importance of creating emotionally engaging places. We know that people tend to take care of what they love.
And we need to not only love our yards and properties. We also need to love our neighbors while remembering that it only takes one person to change the world. Who knows? That person may be you.
Cookie Rodriguez loves Garland.
Speaking of love, Cookie Rodriguez was there last night. Cookie is another Latino community activist we are so fortunate to have in our community. Cookie was born in Puerto Rico and came to Garland by way of New York City. Cookie heads up the non-profit Christian-based Nu-Life Outreach Center and Street Church (D-Boy) Ministries.
Speaking of beautiful people and things reminds me of my friends, Betty Roberts and Reba Collins of Keep Garland Beautiful and yet the removal of another degree of separation. Last night I met Mr. Louis Moore who just happens to live across the street from Dawn Peacock, a friend of mine who was also at the meeting last night. Mr. Moore and his wife had Reba from Keep Garland Beautiful design their pollinator garden.
COME TO THE VOLUNTEER FAIR. Tonight at the Atrium in the Granville Arts Center here in Garland from 6PM to 8PM and learn how you can love your community better.
Deborah, thank you again for hosting the conversations with Latino people from my community last night. I have the feeling that a lot of good things will come out of that event.