Wednesday night’s community meeting at Bay Creek Park was a win for our community. Citizens and civic leaders came together, shared ideas, pushed for resolutions, and came away with a better understanding of what is needed to make Bay Creek — and really, anywhere — safer for all people. And while the County was hesitant to commit to a specific plan of action (which is understandable), I heard something that everyone touched on that we as residents of Grayson can immediately implement.
I heard it when Chief Ayers said, “If you see something you think needs police attention, call 911.”
I heard it when Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlotte Nash said, “Don’t assume someone else will call 911 if something is going on. You call.”
I heard it when a young man addressed the adults in the crowd and implored them, “Please don’t assume that just because I’m black and wear a hood that it makes me a suspicious character. Take the time to talk to me. Ask me questions, I’ll be happy to answer them.”
I heard it when Grayson’s District Commissioner, Tommy Hunter, said, “The most effective deterrent to crime is a community of people who look around and stay engaged.”
Do you hear it?
I’ve owned Grayson Local for almost two years. It’s been a frustrating and fascinating ride. Frustrating because every time I think I understand what this website is meant to do or be for the community, I learn something new that changes my mind. Fascinating because every time I change my mind, I get closer to creating something that isn’t just a consumer good, but something that can really make a difference.
And all of this happens because I get to know the people around me.
I came into Grayson Local with a preconceived notion of what this community was about. After all, I’d served on a church staff in Grayson for many years, and lived here since 2001. My wife and I shopped at the Kroger and Publix, ate at the local restaurants, mailed letters through the local post office; as far as we were concerned, we were Grayson through-and-through.
But once I started Grayson Local, I learned that I knew nothing.
In two years of trying to share stories about this city, I have come to understand that a lot of us spend a lot of time sequestered in our own little worlds. Those little worlds may all geographically intersect in the community of Grayson, but while our worlds may sometimes collide, they don’t always connect. Quite often, when people talk about Grayson, they’re really just talking about their own little world.
That’s why what I heard Wednesday was so powerful. A sizable collection of diverse people sat for nearly two hours and begged one another to quit living myopic, entitled lives, and instead learn to inquire and listen to the stories of the people who surround us.
It seems a fait accompli that as a city or community grows the relational connections between residents must be diminished. After all, human beings are only capable of so many relationships, right? We can’t all be friends.
Honestly, that’s a small way of thinking.
As I listened on Wednesday night, what I learned was that the people of Grayson weren’t calling for new BFFs — they were simply begging to be seen. By the police. By the government authorities. By the adults in the community. By one another. To be seen and acknowledged, to be spoken to not as an obstacle in another person’s way, but as a fellow human with a story and a life and dreams and everything else that makes us who and what we are.
I’m glad that we came together to address Bay Creek and let our voices be heard. But I hope we won’t let that one moment be the only take-away. I hope that we as a community won’t sit back and leave the safety of our community to an unspecified date when a building and a larger police force make us feel comfortable.
I hope that we’ll actually listen to what we said to one another on Wednesday night. That we’ll talk to the people who are around us, whether they look like us or not. That we’ll not hurry past the kids at the skatepark on our way to the ballfields where we feel “at home.”
George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?'” I hope that we’ll not sit back and wring our hands and ask “Why” when we have the power to change things. And all it takes is our being willing to see people, ask questions, then listen.