Building Communities with Roving Listeners

My name is Lucas Rice. I live in Kathleen, GA. I began working with the Macon Roving Listeners in early June. Even though I am still in the learning process, I can tell that some changes have been made in the areas that have been listened to in the previous years.

In the past, the residents were asking for parks or playgrounds to be built for their children. Well, now there is a playground where the kids play all the time. The residents also inquired about an activity center, and one is being built now. Changes don’t have to always be seen. They can be felt. Some of the people that we interview are thankful that we spoke to them. We care about their opinions and values. Once they know that we care and share them, the connection is made. This connection allows them to build on their beliefs, values, opinions and ideas. Basically it makes them stronger than they were. So not only do we change the environment, but we also change the people within that environment.

Every first Monday of the month, we have community dinners. We are trying to establish a family type setting. At this dinner, we inform the residents about our work and brief them on our future plans for the neighborhood. This also allows them to be heard, and we have their input to work with. These dinners are also an opportunity for the residents to meet one another. We may introduce a resident of Macon to another resident of that area because they have similar ideas, passions and opinions. We also had a couple of cookouts this summer. We always invite parents to bring their kids because children are also part of the community.

Half of the people who work for the Roving Listeners have a developmental disability. I’m blind, and I have always been blind. From observing people that we have interviewed this summer, and from my personal experience, people find those with a disability running their own lives as an inspiration. It is something that I noticed about people, and some have told me that they find me inspiring because I can find my classes, go to my dormitory and much more. For example, I always hear: “Wow, man. I’ve been watching you for a while. You seem to know the campus quite well. You are an inspiration to me. Keep it up.” I always say that people are too easily impressed because I am not trying to inspire anyone, but nevertheless, they are inspired. When speaking of inspiration, motivation isn’t that far behind. People with disabilities are a motivation to those without disabilities. The thought process works like this – if he is successful in school, then I can do it too.

In my 21 years of life, I have met some great people who have taught me a lot. My mother, my stepfather and my teachers. Specifically, my vision teacher in high school, Linda Speer. I called her my school mom. She looked out for me, and she continues to look out for me. She doesn’t underestimate me, and pushes me to challenge myself.

When I joined the Roving Listeners, there were two people who stood out to me. The first person I met was Zikeal Howard. He has a demeanor of a 20-something year old man. In reality, he is several years younger than that. I think of him as my trainer. He taught me how things are done, and he encouraged me to do several of the interviews. The second person is Stacey Harwell. She hired me to work for the Roving Listeners. Stacey encourages not only me, but everyone who is part of the Roving Listeners.

I’m glad I work for the Roving Listeners. What we do is good, and doing good is what I’m all about.

Lucas Rice, 21, attends Gordon State College and lives in Kathleen, GA. He works with Macon Roving Listeners at Centenary UMC, in collaboration with GCDD Real Communities Partnerships. Lucas was born in Ethiopia and has lived in the US for the past 14 years.