Hope amid the rancor 

Between the Lines

Several times in recent weeks, friends and strangers alike have offered the same observation: "Really like the things you write," they say, "but why do you always have to be so negative?"

When such feedback comes only occasionally, the usual reaction is to say thanks for reading, shrug it off and move on. But when it's persistent, you have to self-evaluate.

In today's bleak and tense local environment, the first impulse has been to criticize elected officials, the military, school districts, the U.S. Olympic Committee, political parties (yes, both of them) and apathetic voters, among others. Often, the tone's naturally turned sharp.

It's so easy to be aggressive, antagonistic, gruff. So easy to convey a sour outlook on what's happening around us.

But not today. Not after seeing some different aspects of Colorado Springs during the past week. Not after sharing an inspirational breakfast with almost 1,000 people. And certainly not after a few more unrelated community events.

This began early on April 22, as nearly a thousand local residents descended upon the Antlers Hilton to support the local chapter of CASA — Court Appointed Special Advocates — in its work saving the hopes and futures of abused and neglected children from troubled families. To call the Light of Hope breakfast program simply moving wouldn't suffice. It was truly a grabber, celebrating success stories of real people in our midst.

Around that room, nobody cared about others being conservative or liberal, angry with government, tolerant or inflexible. We all had the same feeling. We could appreciate what CASA has been doing for so many families, making this community a better place. And we wanted to do our part.

A few hours later, just as many different people (the total for both was 1,700) came for lunch, hearing the same message and having the same reaction. That's powerful, one nonprofit pulling together so many in one day amid such difficult times.

The pledges totaled an unprecedented, incredible $360,000.

Next came another event, sponsored by another local organization, with a different approach. This was Cheyenne Village's annual Vineyard in the Village, to help its ongoing efforts to provide housing for adults with developmental disabilities. (Full disclosure: One of those adults happens to be our son, Mitch Routon, and I serve on Cheyenne Village's board.) This format was more like the typical modest fundraiser: a live auction plus a "marketplace" with many baskets and packages to tempt the wallets, which many opened generously. Throughout that night at Bigg City Event Center, the crowd of 375 set aside the real-world frustrations, and it felt good.

Last weekend brought even more, starting with the Earth Day festivities at Colorado College. Meanwhile, on the southeast side of downtown, Cottonwood Center for the Arts celebrated the opening of its new home, a converted office building at 427 E. Colorado Ave. Hundreds of visitors flooded the place Friday night, then more on Saturday, and it wasn't just a high-end crowd, either. Just a lot of people who care about art and local artists.

Several blocks away, hundreds more were enjoying the second Indie Spirit Film Festival. Organized by locals with a common love for independent filmmaking, this event brought hordes to Kimball's Twin Peak Theater, the Lon Chaney Theater and other nearby sites. The quality of films was remarkable, from features and documentaries to horror and short films. And at the awards ceremony Sunday night, one of the winning filmmakers, John Krueger (The Fall), concluded his remarks by saying this:

"It's so nice to come to a city that's so welcoming."

Yes, so welcoming. And it didn't take pulling together city leaders and government to make it happen. Just everyday people trying to improve our quality of life.

There'll be another affirmation Saturday at the Southern Colorado AIDS Project's annual Red Ribbon Ball, highlighted by Cleve Jones, the California human-rights activist and close friend of the late Harvey Milk, both of whom became nationally known in the movie Milk.

So many uplifting stories, events and people. Perhaps the mood here won't be positive every week, but it's certainly justified now.

There's still a very good side to Colorado Springs. And we can't ever forget that.



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