Embodiment of community is compassion

If you did nothing more than read this editorial page, you might wonder if Fort Collins has lost its sense of community, as if half of our city is at war with the other half.

Tally the schisms: Glade Reservoir, garbage-hauling districts, Old Town festivals and, of course, the elephant in the waiting room, the health-care debate, a spectacle of debasement, as some politicos tout the screaming matches at town hall meetings as progress. Covered in The Washington Post: near fisticuffs at the Windsor Recreation Center. That’s not progress.

This past week, in frustration, I tossed my notice from the Poudre School District. Now, it seems, we’re poised to fight about whether the president will brainwash our school kids with his socialist agenda. When the only message adults are sending is “me first,” how refreshing to have an articulate and accomplished adult speak to kids about personal accountability and the value of education.

But then my belief in our community was restored.

When news broke Aug. 20 of the death of 14-year-old Urangua “Sisi” Mijiddorj, struck while riding her bike to school, a shockwave of sadness swept across our town. As the days passed, we learned more about this amazing young lady, forever smiling, forever asking questions, and forever reaching out to other kids, particularly those struggling to fit in. Throughout, we never stopped thinking about Sisi’s parents and her two younger siblings.

The Mijiddorjs, immigrants from Mongolia, differ from the typical Fort Collins resident, if typical exists in this diverse college town. They look different, speak with an accent and believe in Buddhism. Could such a family draw strength from a community that bears little resemblance to the one back home?

As bouquets and stuffed toys piled up at the accident site, cards, calls, visitors and e-mails poured in to remind the devastated family that they are not alone here. An indomitable local mom reached remarkably high in state government and secured funding to help the financially strapped family deal with funeral expenses.

At the memorial service, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and students and teachers from the three schools Sisi attended overflowed into the lobby and hallways beyond the funeral home’s greatroom.

Everyone present will never forget one particular moment. After dozens of speakers offered remembrances, a guitar-playing singer and pianist filled the room with music. Mid-song, Sisi’s father suddenly rose from his chair in the front row, bowed before her portrait and began a slow circling dance, his eyes closed and his arms outstretched, as if embracing his daughter for the last time.

On the program guide distributed at the memorial service was a Buddhist prayer word that means many things but, above all, compassion.

During that moment, as Sisi’s father danced, all in that room were bound together in our compassion for that man and his wife, the ultimate expression of community.

Thanks to so many people who have shown support to Khishig, Mijee, Mimi and Miki, and who have demonstrated just how united this community can be.

Contributions may be made to the Sisi Mijiddorj Memorial Fund, c/o 2215 Haymaker Lane, Fort Collins, CO 80525, or share your sentiments with the family at

Comments are closed.