Books Matter: Savanna Cabrera

March is National Reading Month, a whole month designated to encouraging Americans – and by extension Wacoans – to read! The Act Locally Waco blog is beating the drum for National Reading Month by hosting a blog series throughout the month of March, called “Books Matter.” Every day throughout March we will be sharing a post about a Waco resident and a book that matters to him/her.  Thank you to students from the Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media and professor Amber Adamson for help with this fun project.  To read all the blog posts so far, click here

By Grace Shaw

Savanna Cabrera, a student at McLennan Community College, said she believes the Nancy Drew series has impacted feminine culture today.

Cabrera said she struggled with reading growing up. When she found the Nancy Drew series, it sparked a love of reading and helped her out of her weakness. 

When she was in the library one day in middle school, she found one book in the series and decided to read it. She began reading many in the series. This series motivated her to love reading and gain perspective on social constructs of societal expectations of women.

The Nancy Drew series taught Cabrera to break cultural gender stereotypes and to be “daring and courageous.”

The Nancy Drew series has influenced many women to be valiant and bold, to go out of their comfort zones, Cabrera said.

“This series is really empowering. The author truly broke the boundary for young girls,” Cabrera said. “She broke all the cultural stereotypes for what people thought a girl should be…She has inspired me to be confident in myself, be brave and daring.”

Cabrera said the protagonist in the series, Nancy Drew, taught her to be confident in middle school. It taught her to let go of her insecurities and be proud of her strengths. This series has been one that has impacted her life and who she is today. Nancy Drew has been a role model that empowered Cabrera to believe in herself.

Stop in the Name of Love

By The Rev. Aaron M. G. Zimmerman

Jesus said, “Be rude unto others, as you would have them be rude unto you.”

OK, he never said that. 

But he might if he were faced with a pandemic. 

Let me explain. The day after the mayor’s shelter-in-place order, I went for a run. It’s my favorite way to blow off steam, and like everyone else, I have been pretty stressed in these days of Coronavirus. 

As I returned home (feeling much better), I ran into one of my neighbors. He was taking a walk around the block. He approached and we started to chat. 

He was about ten feet away. 

We talked about the new world of Facebook live-streaming. 

He moved a little closer. Eight feet away. 

We talked about the challenges of doing church these days. 

He got a little closer. Seven feet away. 

As the conversation veered into billiards, I started to get nervous. We were about to violate the social distancing six-feet-apart rule. And he’s at risk: He’s older and lives with a 90-year-old. 

But I didn’t want to be, you know, not nice. Could I tell him to back up? It felt, well, downright rude! I faced a dilemma: what is proper etiquette during Coronatime? 

Then I remembered what Waco’s CEO (Chief Etiquette Officer) Sarah Aynesworth told me: Etiquette is not fundamentally about salad forks and stationery. It’s all about showing hospitality to other people, about honoring and respecting others. In other words, we are polite in order to be kind to others. 

This was my realization: in a time of a highly contagious pandemic, when I could be sick and not even know it, when vulnerable people are at great risk, and when medical supplies are in short supply, the most polite thing to do is to be rude. 

So here’s what I did. I held up my hand. Just like Diana Ross and the Supremes did in 1965 when they sang “Stop in the Name of Love.” Just like we did in the 1990s when “Talk to the hand” was a thing. 

And I told my friend, “I don’t mean to be rude, but for the sake of our families, we better follow this six-feet-apart rule.” 

My neighbor graciously backed up. 

To paraphrase Elvis Costello, in these days, it’s rude to be kind. So be rude! In the name of love, health, and public safety, be rude. 
I invite you to join me in adopting the new Caronavirus salute: Hold up that just-washed-for-twenty-seconds hand and say, “In the name of love, back up!” 

It’s what Jesus would do. 


The Rev. Aaron M. G. Zimmerman has served as the Rector of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church since 2013. He co-hosts a popular preaching podcast called Same Old Song (link: https://thesameoldsong.fireside.fm) and serves as a trustee of the Waco Foundation. He is an avid trail runner so keep an eye out for him in Cameron Park, his favorite spot in Waco. 

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Stress from Corona Virus: Will you react or respond?

By Darryl W. Thomas, Jr.

I am a U.S. Marine (two-time) Wartime Veteran who was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I know first-hand their terrible effects. It can feel like a big black hole at times, sending its victim into an endless spiral of dark times. Over the years, with adequate support and resources, I have drastically improved my mental health. Mentally, I am now in a healthy and peaceful place.

As I sit here, I can’t help but think about the uproar that this COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has caused to echo throughout the world. Many are oppressed by fear, overwhelmed by uncertainty and overtaken by anxiety. During these times, it is natural to focus on self-preservation.

To focus on surviving is not a bad thing; however, to only focus on you is not exactly good, either.  Particularly for those of us who are parents, it is important to remember that our children depend on us to model appropriate ways to handle stress and anxiety during tumultuous times such as these. 

Healthy self-preservation includes mental health (the way you think, feel and behave) and spiritual wellness (guiding values, principles, morals and beliefs). In many stressful instances, people tend to merely react to a situation instead of responding to a situation. To react, simply, means to impulsively act based on something that happened. To respond means to deliberately act after giving thought to your guiding values, principles morals and beliefs.

I once heard a quote that said, “It’s not the load that breaks you down, but it’s the way that you carry it.” – Author Unknown

I agree 100 percent. In most cases, it isn’t the stress that brings us to our knees. Rather, it is the mismanagement of stress that does so.

As an At-Risk Interventionist, I have more than 20 years of experience working with at-risk youth, teens and young adults. In 2013, I founded a nonprofit called, The Size Of a Man ( www.SizeOfaMan.org ).  Through this practice I have learned that healthy, thriving, meaningful relationships are crucial for young people. In addition to working with kids professionally, I have five kids of my own.  As parents, we know all-too-well the importance of us maintaining a healthy, thriving relationship with our children. Also, we know that our children learn by example. It is our responsibility and in the best interest of our offspring that we learn to effectively manage stress.

When we, the parents, respond to the stressful times in a responsible manner, we teach our children to do the same. Depending on the strength of that parent-child relationship, our kids tend to follow our lead and respond to stress in the same ways we do.

So, during this global crisis, how should we manage our stress and self-preservation in a way that sets a good example for our kids?  I have two suggestions:

Tip #1: Understand that your problems, stressors, and challenges have an expiration date. These difficulties will end, and the stress that they bring will subside if we choose to handle it responsibly.  Hopefully this tip liberates you and helps you respond rather than react to your stress.

Tip #2: Remember that a closed mouth doesn’t get fed. Even as adults, there are times when we need help. Sometimes we really don’t have the answers to our problems. That’s fine. Be okay with admitting that and seeking out help from someone that you trust. Remember, if you fail to open your mouth and make it known to others that you need help, then you more than likely won’t get the help that you need.

In my humble opinion, this COVID-19 pandemic will soon pass, but the memories that you create during this time will likely outlive you.  Don’t just react – Respond.  Stay safe!


Darryl W. Thomas, Jr., affectionately known as Coach D, is a former at-risk youth turned U.S. Marine and Champion for the Underdog. With more than 20 years of experience working with the at-risk youth, teens and young adults, Coach D has dedicated his time, energy and life’s work to inspiring, challenging and empowering the underdogs to win in the face of adversity and hardships. He is a motivational speaker, published author, life coach, at-risk interventionist, and, most importantly, a family man. If you would like more tips on how to help your teen navigate through anxiety and depression, then checkout https://www.DarrylWThomas.com .

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Books Matter: Sarah Freeland

March is National Reading Month, a whole month designated to encouraging Americans – and by extension Wacoans – to read! The Act Locally Waco blog is beating the drum for National Reading Month by hosting a blog series throughout the month of March, called “Books Matter.” Every day throughout March we will be sharing a post about a Waco resident and a book that matters to him/her.  Thank you to students from the Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media and professor Amber Adamson for help with this fun project.  To read all the blog posts so far, click here

By Brittney Matthews

Books are valued primarily for education and creativity, but local librarian Sarah Freeland values books most for the connection they provide within communities. 

Books have a different impact on each individual and for Freeland the book “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery is the book that has had the biggest impact on her. It’s about Anne, a young orphan girl, who lives on Prince Edward Island and gets adopted by a family, when the family thought they were adopting a boy. Anne uses writing and storytelling to cope with the darkness in her world. In the end, the family falls in love with her. Throughout the series, the reader walks alongside Anne and her life up to adulthood. 

“It really is this wonderful story of family and community,” Freeland said. “But for me, I love the way you see community connecting through story… and it’s her stories that connect people and unite them.”

Freeland said this book impacted her by connecting her to other people who had read the book. It amazed her how this book could create a common ground of understanding between two people. 

“I think reading really gives you the opportunity to explore, engage with and connect with people that are different from you,” Freeland said. 

Freeland encourages others to read “Anne of Green Gables” because Montgomery doesn’t shy away from the hardness of reality, while at the same time showing that there’s more than difficulty in life. 

“You have that [difficulty] but you also have this sense of imagination with a positive outlook,” Freeland said. “There is opportunity for joy and wonder. That to me is really encouraging.”

As a librarian, Freeland sees firsthand how books impact people in the community. For Freeland, being a librarian means assisting people in making the connections that books create within the community and helping others grow in their love for books. 

Books Matter: Rick Tullis

March is National Reading Month, a whole month designated to encouraging Americans – and by extension Wacoans – to read! The Act Locally Waco blog is beating the drum for National Reading Month by hosting a blog series throughout the month of March, called “Books Matter.” Every day throughout March we will be sharing a post about a Waco resident and a book that matters to him/her.  Thank you to students from the Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media and professor Amber Adamson for help with this fun project.  To read all the blog posts so far, click here

By Cole Grafton

Books have the ability to change the way the reader sees the world. For Rick Tullis, “Goodbye to a River” by John Graves helped him connect with nature and the world around him. 

Tullis is the president of Capstone Mechanical, a local engineering and construction company. 

“‘Goodbye to a River’ appealed to me because it’s about Texas rivers,” Tullis said. “I love rivers and love being around them or on them, and so that’s what attracted me to go and read the book.”

Tullis explained that the book was an autobiography of John Graves’ two week trip down the Brazos River, where he had spent many of his summers growing up. 

“They were installing lots of dams along the river, and there were several other ones proposed at the time. So he said, ‘OK one last chance, I’m going to get in the canoe and float down the river,” Tullis said. “And he’s a great storyteller, so his book is not only about his journey down the river, but he tells kind of the history of the different parts along the way.”

Tullis then explained how the book reminded him of his own life and experiences that are similar to the adventures described by Graves. 

“This book matters to me because I’ve got a little farm on the middle Bosque which flows into the Brazos, where he was. And 20 years ago with a friend of mine, I kayaked from Crawford down to Lake Waco, and it was just totally awesome,” Tullis said. “I felt like I was in a totally different part of the country. It was so beautiful.”

The similarities between the lives of Tullis and Graves have helped Tullis to see the river in a new perspective, and to better appreciate Graves’ trip down the Brazos. 

“I connect with the way he sees the life on the river and … the connection to history, but also to the animals, and the plants and the life that a river brings to an area,” Tullis said. “And so I get it. I see that whenever I go out to the river myself, and I can really connect with how the author views those things.”

Books Matter: Pat Miller

March is National Reading Month, a whole month designated to encouraging Americans – and by extension Wacoans – to read! The Act Locally Waco blog is beating the drum for National Reading Month by hosting a blog series throughout the month of March, called “Books Matter.” Every day throughout March we will be sharing a post about a Waco resident and a book that matters to him/her.  Thank you to students from the Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media and professor Amber Adamson for help with this fun project.  To read all the blog posts so far, click here

By Catherine Rennell

During National Reading Month, McLennan County Commissioner Pat Miller celebrates by revisiting her favorite book “Jesus and the Disinherited” by Howard Thurman.

Thurman, an author and activist of the early 20th century, wrote his 1949 book in response to the increase in segregation and racism in America. He was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent protests and relied on his own Christian theology to provide a message of hope for marginalized African Americans. 

“He introduces the life of Jesus in parallel to the African Americans existing in America to Jesus as a Jew existing under Roman authority,” Miller said.

Miller grew up in New York and moved to the South at 10 years old. She said she experienced the Civil Rights movement and segregation in Waco through the slow integration of teaching staff at private schools and later the students themselves at public schools. Miller experienced the harsh reality of American racism that Thurman writes about in his novel. But for Miller, Thurman provides a hopeful message that has inspired and comforted her ever since she read “Jesus and the Disinherited” for the first time. 

“What impressed me most was that it was coming from a Christian perspective,” Miller said. “He addresses the question of how you can embrace Christianity in light of the reality of what is perceived to be the African American’s place in America.” 

Miller said she relied on Thurman’s book for guidance when running for office and that it is the most important book to her at this point in her life as county commissioner.  

“What I found myself having to do, when asking people for their vote,” Miller said, “is it made me really examine my faith in the Democratic system, and America being a place where everybody can be part of the American dream. I found myself relying more and more on some of the points he made in his book.”

Books Matter: Linda Crawford

March is National Reading Month, a whole month designated to encouraging Americans – and by extension Wacoans – to read! The Act Locally Waco blog is beating the drum for National Reading Month by hosting a blog series throughout the month of March, called “Books Matter.” Every day throughout March we will be sharing a post about a Waco resident and a book that matters to him/her.  Thank you to students from the Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media and professor Amber Adamson for help with this fun project.  To read all the blog posts so far, click here

By Bri Boland

Linda Crawford, author of “God, Destiny, and a Glass of Wine,” shares her love of books and change-inducing stories in the Waco community and beyond. 

After coming to Waco in 1989 from Georgia Southern University, Crawford began a career as an English professor and coordinator for the Integrated Reading and Writing Department at McLennan Community College. 

Crawford explained how she hopes her writing will impact the lives of her readers. 

“I want [the readers] to understand when they finish reading the book that you don’t just walk into that destiny that you want. You have to be specific. You have to do it on purpose,” Crawford said. “When they close that book… I want them to graduate.”

Crawford explained how writing changes the life of the author and the audience. 

“It made me remember some things that I have always known. It has made me more aware,” Crawford said. “It is one thing to write about it, but it is another thing to live it. And I try to live it.”

Crawford noted her favorite piece of advice in her published piece. 

“When you run into a negative person, keep running. That’s my favorite in the book and outside of the book,” Crawford said.  

This same sentiment is evident in her goal as the founder of The Anchor News, a local newspaper which began publishing in 2002. 

“The mission of the paper is to bring you just the good stuff…stories that build people up,” Crawford said. 

Crawford highlighted that books are vessels of knowledge and change.

“Books… I just think they are universal,” Crawford said. “If you want someone to change, give them a book that you know they will enjoy. I think one way to make a change, or one way to cause a change, is to give them a book.” 

Books Matter: Marilyn Harren

March is National Reading Month, a whole month designated to encouraging Americans – and by extension Wacoans – to read! The Act Locally Waco blog is beating the drum for National Reading Month by hosting a blog series throughout the month of March, called “Books Matter.” Every day throughout March we will be sharing a post about a Waco resident and a book that matters to him/her.  Thank you to students from the Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media and professor Amber Adamson for help with this fun project.  To read all the blog posts so far, click here

By Saphiana Zamora

In a society engulfed by data and statistics that determine worth, Marilyn Harren turns to The Tyranny of Metrics written by Jerry Muller to guide her through the journey of assisting others.

Harren graduated from Baylor University in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work. She then continued her education at the University of Texas at Arlington through McLennan Community College where she received her certificate in special education.

Harren has work experience in special education, healthcare, pre-k through high school education and higher education, where she experienced first hand, the loss of original values due to the idea of perfect statistics. 

Her background led her to relate to and admire The Tyranny of Metrics by Jerry Muller and to turn to the book for advice that could guide her work.

“The book connected different worlds for me,” Harren said. “I think I’ve read this book at least three times in the past month. I just can’t get enough.”

The Tyranny of Metrics explores the idea of metric fixation, where systems like education are fixated on the numbers of their job rather than their original mission.

“Everyone’s doing something to meet the measurement,” Harren said. “It’s upsetting to see children lost in education and doctors unwilling to help patients simply because of data and statistics.”

As the President of AHEAD in Texas, Harren works to ensure aid for the organizations that help disabled students in higher education. Harren’s current job at Texas State Technical College requires her to utilize her skills in AHEAD and in healthcare as well.

“The book called me to be aware of my setting both in the workplace and in AHEAD,” Harren said. “I love what I do and how I help students. This book helped me become aware of what I was doing wrong in the system by focusing too much on the numbers. It’s definitely important for everyone to find a book like this that opens their eyes.”