Wednesday night I attended the inaugural Neighborhood Action Committee meeting in the West Wilson Street neighborhood.
I had spent part of the day catching up on articles and city press releases about the proposed Costa Mesa city charter. Then there were the subsequent blogs with opinions and musings.
By the time I forced myself to stop reading, I was worked up. I was convinced the city was deteriorating before my eyes. I headed over to the meeting frustrated and annoyed.
I stepped into Harbor Christian Fellowship Church, where music was playing and neighbors were gathering.
A woman I recognized but don't know greeted me warmly as she sat on the front row. I was there to observe and as Olga Parra, the group's adviser, opened the meeting I counted about 30 people in attendance.
My frenzied attitude began to settle as neighbors started discussing their goals and values. The themes that surfaced as areas that make up a healthy community were education, security, health, family, social life and spiritual growth.
I listened as neighbors shared their vision of clean streets and parents working together to fix up the after-school classrooms. Neighbors challenged each other to communicate with one another and read to their kids.
While there was a broad range of topics, a common theme was evident: They are willing to work for the good of the community. In that room, at that moment, there seemed to be consensus as to what good looked like.
The highlight for me was the introduction of a dozen neighborhood leaders, women who have agreed to be the street contact on their block. They are committed to communicating community events and resources to their neighbors. They are asked to visit their neighbors and be aware of ways families need support.
These women are the links holding us all together. As they were called up to the front to be introduced I saw both pride and humility in their faces and mannerisms. They seemed proud to represent their street and humbly willing to serve. As they left the stage, they filed out to the kitchen to serve refreshments to the other attendees. The leaders and the servers.
As the meeting came to a close, we all moved into a side room for what turned into a birthday party for a leader who was truly surprised. Everyone stayed as pink cupcakes were passed around and food was dished up.
We sang "Happy Birthday" and there was a sense of satisfaction in having pulled off the surprise. We chatted and ate and were glad to be together. I left feeling deep gratitude for the gift of community and a joy in having participated. The frustration and frenzied attitude had been melted by the earnest and warmth of these neighbors.
This was just a first meeting. Their goals are lofty. There is a lot of work to do and many personalities to navigate, and yet I have high hopes for the Wilson Neighborhood Action Committee.
They gave me hope for our city. In them I remembered that caring people are engaged and working together and that is what it is going to take for the common good to prevail in Costa Mesa.
CRISSY BROOKS is co-founder and executive director of Mika Community Development Corp., a faith-based nonprofit in Costa Mesa, where she lives.