Good questions help us understand our community

By Suzii Paynter March

Visibility is more than marketing. Impact is more than a project. Don’t get me wrong, I love pictures that feature Waco. There are some great videos that are showing the many features of our community (see Baylor External Affairs video). I am proud we have iconic symbols — the bridge, the silos, buildings, spaces, parks, institutions, and people.

Drone cameras have helped make featuring our town more effective than ever. But come down to ground level and how do we make the vitality, the strengths, and the gaps of our community visible?

Our community is a living entity – an ecosystem of interrelated parts. Like every ecosystem we have things being born and things passing away. Like photos of kids, any snapshot on any given day is just a picture in time. Although fleeting in time, some important events and issues may have a long-lasting impact on our community.

The 1953 Waco tornado happened in a few minutes, but it changed the trajectory of our city for decades. The coronavirus will someday be referred to with the hazy remembrance of the 1918 flu pandemic, but it will leave lasting needs and harmful imbalances in our community if we cannot make them visible now and work to restore and change the outcome to a place of flourishing.

How do we make the invisible visible? We are looking to our leaders to keep asking important questions and to keep assessing needs and gaps – even when we are tired, spent, and used up. I am grateful for these questions, which are helping me stay alert to possible things that might slip under a cloak of invisibility and set us back decades:

  • How can we support local business with an extra measure of effort?

  • How do we imagine next summer?

  • What do we need to do to help kids catch up if they have fallen behind in school?

  • How might we give every kid a great summer experience?

  • How might we retool people with an upskilling for a new job post-COVID?

  • How might we advance equity for minority-owned businesses with a hometown boost?

  • What can we do to keep our own employees from unnecessary suffering because of COVID?

  • Beyond those specific questions, there are some more general questions to be asked:

In our fragile ecosystem, what are the new little sprouts that need nurturing and what are the faded plants that are ready for composting?

How can one benefit the other?

What are the unfulfilled goals that have been expressed by our community, maybe even over time, that can be fulfilled now?

How can Waco prosper?

Suzii Paynter March is chief executive officer of Prosper Waco.