As we climbed upward to a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet, most of the inhabitants on the plane faded in and out of a hazy, early morning consciousness. Outside the tiny window, the thick depths of night gradually began to give way to daybreak.
As light replaced dark, the massive billows of thunderheads became visible below. A million shades of pink and blue and everything that lies between were illuminated by erratic flashes of lightning.
The soft glow of the sunrise surrounded the plane in a luminous, pastel mist.
We were headed westward, straight into the promise of a new day and new adventures. Each mile a minute backwards in time, each second stretching the potential of this day even further.
Waves of gratitude rolled over me, pinning me beneath the weight of the moment. I leaned my forehead against the cool window and let thankful tears roll down my cheeks. “Thank you,” I thought, over and over again. “Thank for for this beautiful life.”
After a five hour flight, and a four and a half hour drive north from Albuquerque to Dolores, Colorado, the first thing I did upon arrival was head out for some fresh air and exercise with my dad.
“Let’s head to Saturn,” he said, gesturing toward the river.
Turns out he was referring to a trail that runs alongside the Dolores River, that was created by a team of fourth-graders and their teachers as part of a solar system learning project.
The gravel trail starts at a sign labeled “The Sun”, and stretches about a mile and a half all the way to Pluto. The distance between each planet is an accurate, to-scale representation of how far away they are in real life.
At each planetary place marker, there’s an informative little placard with facts about the inhabitants of the solar system. The project was a collaborative effort between the city, the county, sponsorships from local businesses, the school children, their teachers and the local parks and recreation department.
Instantly, I was struck by a few things.
First, what a cool idea this was, and how much the kids must have learned about the real scale and size of the solar system throughout the development of this project. Not only that, but how badass it must have been for these kids to see their idea come to life through real community collaboration.
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Next, the fact that the involved entities had worked together to create something based on active learning and engaged citizenship, and to the best of my knowledge, achieved this without any politically-charged in-fighting.
Last, how many people were using the trail. Dolores is a town of about 935 people, and over a dozen of them were on the trail at the same time we were.
This trail got me thinking about how effective local government can be when it makes collaborative relationships within the community the norm, instead of the exception. Now pardon me, as I channel my inner Leslie Knope and go off on an idealistic, mini-rant here …
What could we do within our respective communities if we approached ideas and projects like this one with the knowledge that we’d have support? How would our towns and cities be different if the us-against-them attitude that has become the status quo was instead replaced with a climate of encouragement?
True, I’m just a visitor here, and have no idea what a city council meeting looks like in Dolores, Colorado. Also true, a canyon town of 935 is a different beast than the beachside community of 25,000 I reside in full-time — but the focus on achieving something positive instead of obsessing about things that are overwhelmingly negative is something any community can embrace when motivated to do so.
Maybe when I get back I’ll start a community-action kick-starter group aimed at positively improving my town through engaging in the education process. We could call ourselves Focus on Uplifting Communities and Kids through Educational and Reciprocal Solutions.
Hmm … maybe we’d be better off with a name that didn’t have such an offensive acronym. :)
Back to the drawing board.