Reflections on a day in the Community
by Kenneth Moerbe
After reading some articles in editorial section of Sunday’s (9-13-15) Waco Trib, especially the Q&A with the National Resource Network, Jimmy Dorrell’s column about another needed ‘Miracle on the Brazos’, and the editorial, “Long climb, Fiends for Life’s problems underscoring daily necessities of running nonprofits”, all of which I found very helpful, I found myself reflecting on my experiences the day before.
The first was as a participant in a community gathering sponsored by Mission Waco, and led by Jimmy Dorrell, that was an opportunity for the North Waco community to have some input into the future of a building near the corner of 15th and Colcord, which had just been purchased by Mission Waco/Mission World (MWMW) as part of its continuing efforts to revive this once thriving neighborhood in Waco. As a member of the MWMW Board of Directors, I had a particular interest in hearing community members share suggestions about what they would like to see happen with this building. I appreciated so much the number of folks from the community who attended and the enthusiasm with which many of them expressed what their hopes for this building, which Jimmy has referred to as the BUB, ‘ big ugly building’. These hopes included a non-profit grocery store, a restaurant which also trains youth for local jobs, an ethnic, cultural foods and clothing business, a center for family celebrations and events, etc. I hope the MWMW leadership can harness some of that enthusiasm , creativity and energy to turn the BUB into a BB B, a big beautiful building, used to make the area in which its sits into a more life enhancing place to live.
In the afternoon I volunteered with the Community Race Relations Coalition (CRRC), a diverse group of citizens and organizations whose mission is to promote ethnic and cultural awareness and appreciation to strengthen our community. I was present at a community awareness raising event at the East Waco Park, sponsored by the Northeast Riverside Neighborhood Association and the new Horizons Baptist Church. At the event I was helping to maintain the CRRC’s booth, where we tried to engage folks who were there with the question: How many races do you think exist on the earth? The persons who answered that question correctly were rewarded with some candy and a helium filled balloon. Early on we attracted a lot of children who were there. One of the persons to come to the booth while we were setting up and was around the three hours I was there, was a second grader, whom I will call Kiesha, who attended J.H. Hines Elementary. This young African-American child was there with her grandfather and a couple of brothers. She hung around the booth as we talked about all kinds of things. Seems she lived nearby and seemed to be familiar with some of the other folks who were setting up. We talked and I learned first that her mother was in jail, but that her mother was probably going to be released sometime around Christmas time. Without going into the details I learned when I inquired about her father, that he was also in jail, but she didn’t see him much because the jail ‘was much farther away.” She asked me if I had any daughters and a little bit about why I was there, and what we did in the CRRC, and what some of the words printed on a banner on our booth meant. She could read, but some of those words she saw there were ‘big words.” I enjoyed my time with her, appreciated her positive energy, and even with both of her parents were in jail, she seemed remarkably self-confident and actually a very happy child.
Another highlight of my volunteer time at East Waco Park was meeting again someone I had seen and heard speak at more than one community event a few years ago, and that was a Waco PD officer, Stan Mason. When he walked up, I introduced myself, sure that he did not remember me, I told him I remembered him because in his 20 plus years with Waco PD he had always worked the night shift primarily in North and East Waco. He was the personification of what is called ‘community policing.’ I noticed while we talked that a good number of people came to greet him as they arrived at the event. They were young and old, male and female, well attired and not so well dressed, a real mixture of humanity. In most instances they greeted him with a enthusiastic hug. He was obviously well loved by all of these folks. We got into some conversation and he repeated to me his commitment to the vocation to which he really felt God had called him. I remembered from before that he preferred the night shift because it gave him the opportunity to meet a lot of kids on the street in these neighborhoods and he felt if he reached out to them, because he was a cop who cared for them that maybe, just maybe, they would not get into trouble in these late night hours, as is the case with a good number of youth in these neighborhoods. I introduced him to one of my colleagues in our booth who after hearing our conversation asked him if he really believed that Waco PD was totally free of racial profiling. All I can say is that his response was definitely not defensive, but was realistic, and hopeful in terms of the present and future relationship between Waco PD and people of color, young and old.
All in all, I came home that afternoon with a lot of hope after talking with and listening to some of the folks who live in some of our economically poorest neighborhoods. I think that working together, especially as indicated by the strategies of Prosper Waco, that in time we will succeed in making our community a much better place to live for everyone!
This post was written by Kenneth Moerbe. Kenneth is a Lutheran minister and the former executive director of Caritas. He has participated on just about every committee and task force in town that has anything at all to do with increasing food security or reducing poverty. When he and his wife, Paula, are not gallivanting all over the world on one of their many travels, they are busy serving on various boards, delivering Meals on Wheels and generally being two of the finest and most fun folks in Waco.
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