The Difficult Task of Inquiry

By Elizabeth Ligawa

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes-
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile
— Excerpt from Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem, “We Wear the Mask”

We wear the mask the grins and lies

The last time I was asked the question, “How are you?” was last night at H-E-B.  I usually splurge on late night errands when I have a child-free night, and I was taking full advantage of the late operating hours.  Before my visit to the store, I had just finished up a painful conversation with a friend going through a very difficult time.  My heart was heavy.  My mind was still trying to wrap itself around the traumatic experiences that were shared with me.  My spirit was low.  The inquiry came as I was placing my items for purchase on the conveyor belt, still in the fog of my previous conversation: “How are you?,” the cashier asked. My response was a polite, socially acceptable lie: “I’m doing just fine, thank you.  And you?”

In situations like this one (being in line at the grocery store to be exact), we are usually not expected to engage in deep conversations about life, or suffering, or innovative approaches to a long-standing challenge in our community.  No one is expected to describe Anselm’s ontological argument in the bread aisle next to the pickles, or to participate in a solution that will protect our most vulnerable residents.  But, if you wanted to have a meaningful conversation around a difficult topic, where would you go?

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes

In the last several months, I have been approached by a growing number of faith and community leaders who are genuinely seeking guidance on techniques and strategies of engaging people around one of these difficult topics: race.  When it happens, I am always honored by this inquiry because of the risk involved in the asking.  Waco is a very interesting place when it comes to race, and I am finding out more and more that while we see it, we usually do not know where to go with this conversation?  Do we talk about our community’s history, and its contributions to how race plays out with regard to outcomes and opportunities?  Are we seeking to understand the missing racial diversity in our congregations, or among other community institutions?  Do we share in our understanding of the implications of race?

In topics like race, where we may not feel confident in our navigation skills, we follow similar patterns of dialogue that resemble my engagement level with the cashier at HEB: we politely wear our mask.  We politely decline the opportunity to meaningfully engage.

This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile

To be clear, I am not promoting the idea that we should share the questions of our hearts with the cashiers at H-E-B, or the baristas at Starbucks, or even the person sitting next to you as you’re reading this post.  What I am saying is that a community functions much in the same way as an individual.  And as a community practitioner, I am particularly interested in how you (as a community) are having these conversations about what impacts you.  How do you feel about the local impact of federal policies?  What are you doing with the questions that you are not sure are welcome in polite company?  How are you dealing with issues concerning race and your organization, or community?

There is a way to have these conversations well, and it is as easy and accessible as having different modes of facilitation as part of your tool belt.   On June1-2, the Public Deliberation Initiative will be hosting its inaugural “Civic Life Summit: Doing Democracy Differently”.  At this summit, you will learn how to: 1) Build mutual respect and understanding across race, religion, and more; 2) Move beyond divisiveness to work together for greater good; 3) Identify common ground across difference, and potential steps forward together, and 4) and Develop a framework for public engagement within your group or sphere of influence. To register for the Summit, please click here. The cost is $95 per individual with limited scholarships available. For more information, please contact Erin Payseur by sending an email to

We can embrace conversations with courage.  We can bring confidence in engaging these challenging topics.  We can produce change.  But first, let’s talk.

Elizabeth Ligawa is a recent graduate from Truett Theological Seminary, and the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, earning both her Master of Divinity, and Master of Social Work.  Though her prized role is being a mother to her dear son, Elijah, Liz has a love for encouraging people to come together in ways that engender healthy communities.  Her role as the Director of Community Engagement at Prosper Waco allows her the room to work in and among the many faces of her beloved Waco community. She may be reached at

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 for more information.








Learn Something New this Summer at MCC!

By Madison Albee

Summer is the perfect time to have unique experiences and learn something new. MCC Continuing Education is committed to the development and enrichment of Waco and McLennan County. Our continuing education programs are designed to help individuals grow, explore their interests, develop their skills, or help them shift careers. Check out what we have to offer!

Community Programs

There are many different kinds of classes that are open to the Waco and McLennan County community, including but not limited to:

  • Arts & Hobbies
  • Culinary
  • Fitness and Wellness
  • Languages
  • Travel & Special Events
  • Kids College

Classes range from “House Flipping 101” to “Country Western Dance.” You are guaranteed to find a class that interests you, and even something that interests the kids! MCC Kids College offers classes such as “Babysitter Basic Boot Camp” and “Minecraft: Travel to the Future.”

Corporate Training and Workforce Education

For those interested in further developing their skills or wanting to shift their careers, MCC offers corporate training and workforce education over the summer with classes in the following areas:

  • Auctioneering
  • Computers
  • Professional Development
  • Law Enforcement
  • Telecommunications
  • Teacher Certification
  • Truck Driver

Online courses are also available for corporate training and workforce education.

Health and Human Services

If you have always had an interest in the health and medical field, this summer is the perfect time to start your journey at MCC. We offer classes for those wanting to pursue positions such as:

  • Activity Director
  • EKG Technician
  • Nurse Aid/Medical Assistant
  • Massage Therapist
  • Pharmacy Technician
  • Personal Trainer
  • Medical Coding Specialist

Some health and human services courses have entrance requirements such as immunizations and background checks. For more information, please call 254-299-8590.

Highlander Ranch

MCC’s Highlander Ranch offers some summer activities for members of the community interested in horses, horseback riding, and spending time outdoors.

  • Clinics
  • Pony Club
  • Horse Shows

For more information about Highlander Ranch please visit

 To see ALL the classes MCC Continuing Education will offer this summer, please take a look at our online brochure.

A summer spent with MCC Continuing Education will be a summer well spent. Register now before classes fill up!

Online: Go to our home page at and click on How to Register.

In person: Register at the Continuing Education Office. Office hours are 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday – Thursday and 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday.

Phone: Call 254-299-8888 from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday – Thursday and 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday. Payment must be made by American Express, Discover, MasterCard or Visa.

MCC hopes you have a sunny and educational summer!

Madison Albee is a senior at Baylor University from Fort Worth, Texas. She is studying journalism/public relations with a concentration in marketing and is graduating this coming May. Currently Madison works for MCC as a public relations intern in the marketing and communications department. She is also the public relations assistant for Luca Magazine.

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 for more information.



Cicada Summer Love Song

By Russell Ritchey

We moved to Waco in 1990 and raised four beautiful children born and raised on what to me is now hallowed ground. My wife, Angie, passed away last year, God rest her soul. But she poured her heart and soul into our kids. It was so beautiful. (She was actually born in Waco in 1964, her dad, Ira Thompsom, being a Methodist Minister at that time).  I penned a poem (actually a song) in 2003 as I pondered the ways of God, and life, as I listened to the cicadas in the lone oak tree above, and in Cameron Park all around, cradling my newborn son, Wesley, in my arms, nicknamed then as ‘Bug’. So now,  after all these years, I want to share how the summer sound of the cicada has impressed upon me a strong and enduring memory. I hope you find my poem (song) a pleasant and pleasurable read and that it will compliment the melody of the cicada bug in your Waco trees this summer, and all the summers to come, and ultimately, in your many memories.

Here’s to my children, and especially my ‘bug’, and to my late wife Angie.
That Cicada Summer Love Song

Cicada, cicada, singing that summer song,
Cicada, cicada, singing all summer long.

The sound of summer fills the air,
Gently soothing every care.

Cicada, cicada.

The sun is shining bright outside,
It’s wonderful to be alive.
And now and then there is a breeze,
Whispering sweet memories.

Cicada, cicada.

So many summers from the past,
Oh how I wished each one would last
Just like this moment here with you,
I hope it is a memory too.

Cicada, cicada.

As summers come and summers go,
I hope your love for me will grow.
And when you hear them in the tree,
I hope you will remember me.

Cicada, cicada.

The sound of summer fills the air,
Gently soothing every care.

Cicada, cicada …
Tempo: Grave – very slow (25–45 bpm) Just like the ‘dog days of summer’.

Use a guttural vibrato on the ‘ca’ in ci-ca-da using the vibrations of the epiglottis.  Hold ca——- for about three seconds (like gargling with water but with air instead) to emulate the sound of the cicada. Pitch goes from low to a little higher to fading out (just like the sound of the cicada).

Interestingly, Cicadas have a two to seventeen year life cycle, depending on the species. Their familiar sounds during the ‘dog-days’ of summer are sometimes pleasant, sometimes annoying (depending on your frame of mind). However, the cicada’s time in life is as brief as a midsummer’s night, and it comes and goes before you know it.

Just like the wondrous moments of youth, which swiftly pass along, and then are gently locked away in the never changing realm known only as memories.  May it forever be that we only have pleasant ones, and all that may be otherwise be gently washed away by the sound of the cicada.

Russell Ritchey may not be a native son of Waco Texas, but how close can you get? His wife, Angie, of 27 years (God rest her soul) was born in Waco, 1964. And their four children, Nathan, Le’Anna, Kristina, and Wesley all breathed their first air in the Heart of Waco on Texas soil. Russell took a job at L-3 in 1990 (then Chrysler Technologies) and has enjoyed his home in Waco ever since, and his family that brought him there, and his job at L-3 that made it possible.

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 for more information.