Community Development

Picture it.
Downtown Salt Lake City
on a Tuesday at 5:30 pm.
Rush hour traffic.
An exhausted special needs mama
gets in her car after an 8-hour workday
after getting only 90 minutes of sleep the night before.
She is excited at the chance
to rush to teach her piano lesson,
then head HOME,
kiss her sweethearts goodnight,
knowing she can rest well
because tonight it's his turn to watch Chloe! ;)

That's when she gets a phone call.
"Can you be at the city public hearing tonight
to represent the playground?"
"Oh, you mean the project that I started?
Well, I guess if it needs representation,
tonight or any night, I'm your gal.
What time do you need me there?"
(please be during piano lessons, please be during piano lessons!)
"7:00. Can you make it?"
"Oh darn (wink), that's right in the middle of when I'm teaching piano lessons.
Guess someone else will have to fill in."
"Well, sorry for the late notice, but it's really important, has to do with a grant that could get the project a lot of money and abc couldn't do it because of xyz, so that leaves u."

So calls get made, schedules get rearranged.
Of course I show up. But I don't promise much else.

Oh, this story is about me, by the way.
I just went from writing in the third person to writing in the first person
for no apparent reason.
It's not a literary novel, for heck sakes,
so let's just go with the flow here
because I'm too tired to edit.

I'm ill-informed on the grant,
but highly passionate about the project.
I hope that's enough
'cause that's all I got.

I have fifteen minutes to snuggle Chloe,
do my hair for the first time today,
freshen my make up,
try to cover the GIANT fever blister on my lip,
apply more eye liner and darker lip stain than usual
in hopes to make it look like I'm half awake instead of half asleep.
Rather, I look a bit like a 7th grader trying to figure out for the first time
how all those brushes and eye liners work,
and not sure when more make up is too much.

Oh well.
Some things are bigger than
utter exhaustion
and self-esteem.
Like my kid.
And everyone else's kids.
And doing the right thing.

So I haul myself to the city building,
prepared to see the usual few
who attend those meetings.
Instead, I walk into a wall of people.
It's a madhouse!

"Am I at the right place?
This is Syracuse, Utah's
public hearing, right?"
"Yes. Get in line."
"Okay, but just to be sure,
this is not a public appearance by Bono or Justin Bieber?"
No response.

Long story short,
there's a major road issue going on
in Davis County (of which Syracuse is a part).

I-15 is no longer meeting our commuter needs.
Legacy Highway has begun,
but the Davis Corridor of that highway
is still in the planning stages.
No matter where this corridor runs,
it will have a HUGE impact on a LOT of people:
neighborhoods, protected wetlands, farms, developed parks....
all of which have people and families behind them
who are upset and/or opinionated
about the Davis Corridor.
And, to be honest,
I don't blame them.
To be even more honest,
I am one of them.

TONIGHT was the night
that UDOT came to Syracuse
to talk about these MAJOR issues
and address all the heated
questions, comments and concerns
about the proposed options for the corridor.

Okay, not to make this major development planning
for the state of Utah
about me, but...

I look like I just got ran over by a truck,
FEEL like I just got ran over by a TRAIN,
haven't got anything prepared to say,
and my issue is on the agenda just before
THIS issue?

I'll skip the details about the meeting
and its big-time issues,
but here are some notes I put into my smart phone
to reference as I gave my presentation,
even though I couldn't find when it came time to present.
Par for the course, eh?
Thankfully, I think I remembered most of it,
and the improvisations of what I couldn't remember
seemed to go over pretty well.
I stammered a time or two, said um more than I should have,
smacked the microphone a good one after I wiped a tear --
even though I tried my darndest not to cry.
But everyone clapped afterward, patted my shoulder,
and things of that nature.
I sincerely feel like I did what I came to do....
I passionately represented The No Child Left Out Project and
Chloe's Sunshine Playground.

Here's what I said. Sort of. And then some.
Then it's edited and polished quite a bit, but here it is nonetheless....

Syracuse City has been presented an opportunity to pursue Community Development. I can assure you that Chloe's Sunshine Playground is the best way to develop this community. Let me explain.

Not only will this playground be a wonderful gathering place, it will also boost the economy. It will be a place that will not only accept or accommodate my daughter, Chloe, or all children with special needs, or all adults with special needs, or meet ADA standards, or provide accessibility options for mobility equipment... It won't only help everyone feel good about doing just enough
so they can say that, 'special needs kids can play here too,' and feel warm and fuzzy that they did the 'right thing.' It won't only be a place just for this city, either. I know the special needs community and they're willing travel many miles to see their childrens' smiles.

Chloe's Sunshine Playground will be a place where differences are celebrated!

It is so easy for the general public to see how they can help those with special needs. The special needs community needs your help and they're grateful when they get it. But I promise that the things that make them different also make them extraordinary and they can help you too! I hope that no one will stand tall over a child in a wheelchair on the grand opening of Chloe's Sunshine Playground and say, "Look what we did for you. Aren't we wonderful?" I hope, instead, they will kneel down and look into the child's eyes for a moment, take time to see their smile light up their face, then be so profoundly touched and changed by such pure joy, that they quite simply have to say, "Come on, let's go play together!" Mother Theresa taught that we belong to each other. If so, we need a place where we can all really be there for each other in the broadest sense. Everyone can help their fellow man in unique ways, and so often the simplest actions have the most profound effect, if only we take the time to see and appreciate them.

I'm grateful to be part of a community that is willing to see its opportunity for development in a broader scope than just visually appealing structures that have feel-good labels and accommodations. Those things are important and we need them, but I'm referring to something larger and more grand. Chloe's Sunshine Playground is an opportunity for all of us to light an inner spark and shine a little brighter, because maybe that light will help someone else. This concept is community development in its truest form.

Tonight, our differences of opinions about where to put a road have segregated us. Issues have and will resonate within this community that will seem to force us into separate corners, in aggressive and defensive stances. (Not to undermine the importance of this issue because the Davis Corridor issue IS very important to me and will directly impact my neighborhood.) However, it's my hope that Chloe's Sunshine Playground will one day be the place where the simplest and most universal expression of joy,
a child's smile,
will always unite us.

I would argue with Jim Collins that Henry Ford's most far-reaching and influential invention was not the Model T, but the assembly line. In that same line of thinking, I hope that Chloe's Sunshine Playground is not Syracuse City's legacy. I hope our broader sense of inclusion and commitment to community becomes the playground's legacy.


Celine said...

What can I say other than "You're my hero"?
I'm so proud of you!

Kristina said...

Oh, wow, Tara. That brought a few tears to my eyes. You speak from the heart and everyone there knew it. I sure do hope you get the grant! What a wonderful gift you are working to give to the community!