Guest column

Our community is bigger than we think


I’ve lived in Littleton for almost 30 years and have had a wonderful life here — close enough to access the arts, facilities, and museums of Denver, but nice and separate from the downtown commotion. Serving our Senate district at the Capitol, however, convinced me that all of us Coloradans are connected. As I learned how rural life was affected by our urban and suburban actions, and vice versa, my paradigm of separateness shifted. I realized that no matter where we lived we are all interconnected with our choices.

Looking out my window this morning and seeing the thick smoke in the air, I was quickly reminded of this in a physical way. I could no longer just worry for my West Coast family members. I had to admit that thousands of miles away from there we are deeply affected as well. I’ve known that the fires in the Amazon forests are killing off habitats that help sustain all of us globally. But I haven’t smelled it or even seen it on the news. Since it wasn’t in my own backyard, I literally put it out of my mind ... because I could. But today, as I was breathing smoke on my walk, I could no longer deny the separateness of these events or the people.

As homelessness continues to “encroach” in the suburbs (as some of my neighbors would say), we are being forced to wake up and smell the coffee for those who have no cup. Before, we suburbanites could ignore those without homes because it was just in Denver. But now, we’re being thrust into acknowledging that not only do “these people” exist, but also that we are connected to them as fellow humans in community experiencing homelessness.

Then, there’s the pandemic — a beautiful, shining example of how we’re all connected. Whether you do or don’t wear a mask; physically distance; wash your hands, congregate, or travel; etc., your actions can affect me very personally. Through the coronavirus, we are being taught this well (if we’re willing to learn). Ironically, through isolation and mask-wearing, we are hopefully learning that we all live together in an interdependent and connected community. What you do affects me, my family, and my neighbors.

So what do we do now? Well for me, whether I smell smoke or not, I’m waking up every day with my cup of awareness, more conscious of the illusion of separateness of fires, quarantines, and suburbs or gated communities. We are all connected in this interweb of life, and now our virus, planet, and God are screaming at us to act accordingly before it’s too late. We are not separate just because boundaries on a map tell us so. There is no time left to think or act independently anymore. Lives are on the line in our local and global community, hoping we act responsibly. Will we?

Former Colorado state senator, now with a master’s in Social Justice and Ethics from Iliff School of Theology, Linda Newell is a writer, speaker, facilitator, and filmmaker.,,, @sennewell on Twitter, Senator Linda Newell or @TheLastBill on Facebook.

Linda Newell


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