Guest column: Building connections in changing community

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Guest Column, By Sara Aeikens

Just over a half a century of my life has happened since I served in the Peace Corps in Venezuela, South America. Making a positive difference in others’ lives, as well as my own, for me became the essence of the service. Recently, three different events caused me to ponder how they fit into those goals from long ago.

Sara Aeikens

Being able to attend the Albert Lea Police Academy program connected me to our community with new levels of learning during several months of weekly sessions. Introductions included backgrounds and qualifications of our police presenters, so our group of around 15 participants could have a chance to get acquainted with each as individuals while they gave us an immense amount of information.

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We learned about their jobs, their goals and specifics in areas of physical police space, patrolling and problems addressed, such as breaking the law by traffic violations or possession of drugs or alcohol or other illegal activities. The last session, a hands-on experience, dealt with the procedure of collection of evidence during a criminal investigation. This educational experience is available to our community annually, and I would encourage those who are interested to connect with our law enforcement agencies.

Switching topics a bit dramatically brings me to share that spring finally appearing means I am now able to take a morning walk outside. My circular path of almost two miles brings me to Dane Bay Bridge, where I watch the geese, ducks and pelicans. I walk at a slower pace since my feet don’t move as fast as last fall.

Recently on my trek I noticed a rummage sale sign and a sold sign at a home where I’d attended a neighborhood party last summer. While visiting with the owners, they told me they plan to move south where they regularly spend their winters. At the sale I saw several dozen handmade colored glass artworks on metal stands. I thought they’d be a great garden gift for one of the three weddings we’re invited to this summer. The artist/homeowner, her husband and also their longtime friend from the winter home shared some about her garden creations. We talked about the issues with moving, about missing neighbors, living in a fun neighborhood and getting old. Even though I hardly knew them, it turned out to be an intriguing conversation. I ended up staying longer than I planned.

One of the women shared her story about having a toy cradle as a child, given to her by her parents to soothe her baby doll named Sara Jane (without an “h” on the end of Sara, just like my first name). Now, she won’t forget my name. I think that’s the moment I decided I must purchase the calla lily flower glass artwork and not give it as a gift. I planted it in our front yard on its metal stand to remind me of this special neighborhood experience.

The third memorable experience resulted from receiving an invitation to a neighborhood gathering from a previously unknown family a block away that happened to live next door to a policeman and teacher of the academy course I’d just completed. On our two-block street, we’ve had two houses destroyed by fire. I found out more about the most recent fire, since one of the owners came to the party. I also recalled an alleyway picnic sponsored by our community police. Both events connected residents of our neighborhood.

In tying this all together, I’m wishing I could put to use the bright yellow ribbon with the black lettering attached to the huge oak tree they just chopped down on the fire-ridden lot to make room for building a new modern house on the corner of our street. It’s about change and connections, safety and service to others and building strong neighborhoods.

Oh, I just remembered: Sense of humor slides into importance in life, along with positive action. Thank you for attempting to track my thought process.

Sara Aeikens is an Albert Lea resident.