Community Dialogues Strengthen Communities

April 10, 2012
Kathleen O'Donovan Uniting America AmeriCorps Fellow

This past weekend I had the opportunity to take part in a very unique opportunity in Waukegan. I went to a community dialog that took place at First Baptist Church. They started these dialogs in response to a homicide that happened down the street from the Church. At their first meeting they looked at what it meant to be a neighbor.  Now they have an exciting opportunity to design a park in some extra space that the church has. The meeting that I went to centered around starting to plan this potential park. 

When I first arrived we were given three post it notes and asked to answer three questions: ”head: what do you know?” hands: what are you good at doing?” and heart: what do you love doing?” When we were all done filling them out we posted them on a wall and then read them all out loud. It was amazing to see how people had taken the questions differently and the variety of strengths that we as a group had. People put down answers that I never would have thought of. Just from the “what do you know?” question it was clear to me that we had a doctor, an accountant, a librarian and many other professions present. And people passions were even more interesting. We had: helping others, social justice, animals, numbers, gardening, and sports among our answers. All these answers made me think about how we are stronger if we come together than if we stay divided. 

We then started to talk about this potential park. Everyone had strong opinions and clearly demonstrated that they felt connected to their community in one way or another. The overwhelming theme that I got from the conversation was that people wanted the park to be a safe space for children. How people envision that space differed drastically, but a  place for children was something that everyone believed in. 

This meeting served as a real inspiration for me. People came out on a Saturday morning to talk about issues in their community and were trying to address some of those issues through building a new park. I believe these types of actions are the embodiment of Uniting America. It is very encouraging to see positive changes like this happening in Waukegan.