This summer, our Chief Possibility Officer, Cathe Dykstra, served as the Chair for the Living Focus Team of Vision Louisville. The Living Focus Team engaged members of our community in exploring what the future might look like for Louisville as it relates to housing, neighborhoods and quality of place.
Because Cathe is, as she says, ” the old woman in the shoe,” she developed a worksheet to capture the ideas and imagination of children. Many children at Family Scholar House and even more in the community contributed by sharing their thoughts on what they wish they had in their neighborhoods and what they want to see in the places they live in the future. Children could use words, drawings or both to contribute. And, they did.
We also asked about their favorite flavor of ice cream. Sometimes vanilla lovers have vanilla ideas, and we wanted to see if there was a correlation.
Many of the children’s worksheets were profound not because they had Jetsonian ideas of flying cars and robots (although they had those as well), but because so much of what they said mattered were basic human needs like safety, places to play, enough room for family and enough food to eat.
Neil, age 7, wants to live in a place where everyone gets along. Destin, age 10, wants a place where his family can live with him. Arianna, age 7, wants a big table that will make it possible for all of her family to eat together. Chondani, age 10, wants speed bumps so her neighborhood will be safer for her to ride her bike. Similarly, Tarryn, age 11, wants “a gated community so only certain people can come in.” And, because some of our kids blend fantasy and reality, Aiden, age 6, wants zombies and nice people.
As adults, we want to set big goals for the future. We want to plan for parks (our kids unanimously agree that parks are great), better transportation (bridges, light rail, bike lanes) and amenities like streetscaping and solar panel farms. Yet, our children start with visions that include meeting the basic needs for everyone in our community.
There is a lesson in all of this that serves as a cautionary tale. We cannot move our community forward if we are leaving people behind. Meeting the basic needs of our children (and, I would argue, their parents), is the lowest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of need. It is the foundation upon which we build bigger, bolder visions for our community’s future.
And, from the mouths of babes, the children’s worksheets reminded us that sometimes it is not the boldest of visions but the most basic of visions that help us build and nurture our sense of community.
That is our vision for Louisville – a true sense of community that empowers, emboldens, envisions and celebrates all that we are together because it is so much more than we can be alone.