About a week ago I received an update through a neighborhood listserve about the death of a neighbor. The population of what I consider my Dimond neighborhood is near 4000 residents and given the size births, deaths, comings and goings are a regular if not daily occurring. But the passing of this neighbor was more than slightly shocking to me. At most we had met only two or three times and even those conversations had been fairly brief yet in those small interactions he had made his presence a fixture of what I think of when I personify my neighborhood.
I first met David and his wife Cecilia while on a walk through the park with my kids. They were arriving at the same time we were and both were dressed in nifty, yellow, construction style vests – and carrying clean-up tools. As a new resident I had heard rumor of the volunteer clean up crew but had yet to get connected with anyone involved. With two little ones running around I find myself taking full advantage of our park system and the notion of volunteering to help keep it clean just seemed great. I heartily introduced myself to my new neighbors and proceeded to talk with them for a bit about the Keep Dimond Clean walks and their involvement as volunteers. David summarized their involvement by stating very mater of fact that the park was just an extension of their backyard and it seemed natural that they would help contribute to keeping it nice. The pureness of David’s logic for their volunteer efforts is unarguable; if the park belongs to us then we should all help in keeping the way we want it to be.
When I received the email about David’s death I was more than a bit taken back, both at his early passing but also at the sense of loss I felt. For someone I had, had very little interaction with my value of him as a neighbor and person was tremendous and I truly mourn his passing. This made me think about what it was that made David such a significant part of the Dimond landscape. What made his impact so much greater than just the individual actions and characteristics. Cecilia wrote a beautiful statement about her interpretation of David’s work within the neighborhood and I think it gets to the gist of this impact:
The Dimond area is a piece of a large metropolis. Here in Dimond we are the ones who live in our community and the ones who are responsible for our community. We make feasible decisions on growth and effectiveness of such growth. The Fruitvale area is one of the most traveled in Oakland. We have the 580 freeway at one end and the 880 freeway. The DIA is effective here. My beloved David had great aspirations for this area and it is too bad for the short time he was here. He had a vision for this community that he really wanted to achieve. Don’t forget that I am here, and I am not quitting this community. In his name, my name remains. Thank you to all Keep Dimond Clean volunteers.— Cecilia Miller
Cecilia’s sentiments get to the core of why David went to the park each week and continued to “keep Dimond clean.” It had everything to do with hope, intention for growth and aspirations for a greater good in the community. These are the things that made David an impactful man, not just what he did but why he did it.
Thinking about the impact that David had on the neighborhood and those of us who live here opens the obvious question of how each of us can share in these common goals that he lived for. Ofcourse it would be wonderful if everyone joined in just one hour a week volunteering to help make their neighborhood a better place, but regardless of whether or not that is a feasible possibility for us all looks past the core of David’s impact. At the heart of the matter it was the reason behind the actions that made David and continue to make Cecilia corner stones of the neighborhood. And all of us can follow this example by setting out not just to complete a task but to remember that in everything we do there is a greater goal of shared values and community.