by Craig S. Fairfield, Focus Louisville September 2013 —
His parents brought him to Louisville when he was six. He spoke no English. He had no friends. He knew nothing about his new town. He was an only child, so he didn’t even have a brother or sister to hold his hand.
“We came to the U.S. to make a better life,” Mario said, when I asked what brought them here. Simple as that. Five years later, they have.
I met Mario (I’ve changed his name to protect his privacy) on a field trip to Young Elementary School as part of a recent Focus Louisville class. The goal of Focus Louisville is to expose attendees to a wider view of our community and to inspire them to find ways to get involved. For me, Mario’s story was representative of what I want Louisville to be – a welcoming, supportive place. A place where the “haves” help the “have-nots” improve their situations, so they can contribute to the health of our community instead of being a drain on it. A place where people like Mario can thrive – and maybe even rise to become leaders for the next generation.
In addition to eye-opening trips, my Focus class got “face time” with many of the people who will determine if Louisville lives up to this vision. JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens, Police Chief Steve Conrad and many others shared their successes, failures and plans for the future. Smart, dynamic leaders like these are important, but as Focus Louisville reminded me, if Louisville is going to be the kind of place that nurtures Mario and the many others like him who need our help, it’s going to take more. It’s going to take all of us; working together and contributing our time, talents, influence and resources in meaningful ways.
Mario has long-ago mastered English. His family is thriving in its new home. Like countless generations who’ve come to the U.S. looking for a better life, his future is bright. Let’s work together to make Louisville the kind of place where he’ll want to stay.