We sat up straighter. We set down our plates. We turned our attention to a simple easel with a flip chart on it.
And we began to dream.
Earlier that evening, when I first stepped onto the patio divided as half meeting space, half storage unit, I didn't feel particularly inspired. The space was lighted by work lamps plugged into extension cords and the noise from the living room TV made it hard for me to concentrate.
But then the dreaming began.
"When you walk to the Neighborhood Action Committee meeting 10 years from now, what will you see? What do you hear? Who is there? What do you smell? What are the things you are celebrating?"
We sat with our eyes closed envisioning our future and then it began to spill out of us.
"I am celebrating my son's graduation."
"I see children playing."
"I see my home filled with friends. I'm not alone, like other old people I know."
"I walk in the alley without smelling filth."
"I hear us speaking English."
"I feel a sincere friendship with my neighbors."
"I have plenty of work."
On and on, the dreams poured out. The work lights didn't feel so glaring, but rather warm. Hearing my neighbors' desired future overpowered the buzz of the TV. I was inspired.
We spent the rest of the meeting talking about the current reality of our community. We took comfort in the strength of communication among neighbors and how we have grown closer and more trusting of each other.
We discussed the reality of gangs still recruiting kids, and neighbors who do not want to participate in working together. We looked at how our fear and unwillingness to speak up keeps us isolated sometimes and talked about how overwhelming life can be.
Then we looked at the dreams again. In the end, we each committed to working together toward the dream. Even in light of the reality, we chose to go for it.
Together we have enough going for us to believe we will live the dream of a safe, respectful, prosperous community. We know it will take hard work because that kind of change does not just happen without intention. Tonight we committed together as a community to do what it takes to reach our goals.