Yesterday, in a bit over 6 hours, approximately 200 volunteers from PepsiCo, Frito-Lay, KaBoom!, the Dallas Housing Authority and the Monarch/Carroll/Roseland neighborhood combined their energy, hard work and creativity to turn a vacant lot into an amazing playground for children!
I have never experienced anything like it in my life!
At 8:00 a.m. there was cleared ground, complete with a few holes dug for the placement of playground equipment--thanks to our advance preparation crew.
By 2:00 p.m. we all enjoyed a grand opening, ribbon cutting ceremony for our new playground!
The entire experience served as an icon of what happens when communities enjoy the benefit of resources and opportunities.
The key factors were so obvious.
First, we had what we needed to do the work--capital, property, materials, labor and will.
Second, everyone played their part. This was no outside-in project. The community owned it, helped build it and took advantage of the willingness of outsiders to be involved as partners and suppliers.
Third, without our realizing it, our work erased our differences. The normal lines that keep us apart were nowhere to be seen on this special day. Race, class, employment, education--you name it--nothing mattered but the community, the children and our agreed upon work.
At the end of the day, we were tired, we were proud and we wanted to celebrate!
Community does that to a person and to a neighborhood.
Two incidents from my day stand out.
During our opening ceremonies, a young mother who lives next door to the new playground began crying. I asked her if she was okay.
She replied, "I'm so glad today! I just can't believe our children are going to have something this nice to play on. I'm so ready to see our community get better."
Her comments provided me motivation toward the end of the day when my back was getting tired!
Then, as we were preparing to leave, a volunteer I'd been working with on the concrete crew came by to slap me on the back, shake my hand and tell me, "Take care, Larry!"
We had been perfect strangers. He lived far from our neighborhood. But in our work we had found significant common ground. I know stories like this unfolded all day among all of us.
What an amazing day it was!
If you are in Dallas, drive by 2011 California Drive and take a look at our handiwork. You'll like it, I know.