I probably was considered a city newbie when I first came to Denver. Having lived my entire life in the suburbs outside of Des Moines, Iowa, I had only experienced a city in brief visits. Mostly, I knew cities as places where a lot of people lived and where there were big, tall buildings and higher rates of crime. That all changed when I came to live in Denver, and what changed my perspective was the people of the city.
When you think of people who live in a city, what comes to mind first? For me, it was businessmen and women and hopeful college grads. Then I actually started walking around in Denver, and I started noticing that there were all sorts of people here, from the homeless person on the corner to the single mom in the grocery store to, yes, even a CEO or two in fancy cars. That opened my eyes. A city, I realized, was not about what you see from the outside. It’s not about the skyscrapers and traffic jams and city parks, it’s about the people. The people are the heart and soul of a city, and I found that Denver has some pretty special ones.
We have met with a lot of cool people and organizations in our classes out here that are really making a difference in the community. We have been to an indoor farm that sits in the middle of a food desert, selling all natural produce at little cost to families below the poverty line. We have heard from a former homeless man now dedicated to helping those who were in his same situation. We have learned of advocacy groups fighting to get more affordable housing and those who are fighting to make the city more sustainable. These are the people that have inspired me.
Picturing a city now, I see business people who are in the business of helping other people, the people who dedicate their lives to non-profits and advocacy work just because they know it is the right thing to do. If anyone ever knew that one kid from high school that was really passionate about a certain topic in all the class debates, but that you lost touch with after graduation, I think I know where they went. They went to a city, where they don’t see the crowded streets as an annoyance so much as a resource for making a difference.