Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Rake by Any Other Name is Not the Same: Week 2

The second week arrived, and we had settled into a pattern. We found yet more layers of trash under layers of trash in the flowerbed next to the Crocodile Cafe. No real big trash treasures this week, but we started to notice the patterns in the trash: beer high boy cans and the packaging from single cigarettes. The bushes seemed to belch out endless amounts of trash that we thought we'd already picked up. We were starting to understand that the cleanup was going to take time.

The biggest thing of note this week was our interactions with people: The people that hang out on the corner, the people who live in the neighborhood, and the people who are passing by.

The corners of 2nd and Blanchard and Second and Bell, as you know from previous entries, are almost always populated with people who are high out of their gourd on crack and those associated with them. This week, as we were cleaning the corner, those corner people noticed us. While we were cleaning, they asked what we were doing. Some of them stood pretty closed to us while we cleaned and watched. Everyone is welcome to help, so we explained we are volunteers and we're here every Sunday at 3. If they wanted to help, they were welcome. They expressed interest and said "you're here every Sunday? Cool. We'll be here next Sunday!" Cool, we said, but we didn't expect help from the same folks who leave empty cans of Joose in the bushes. You never know, though.

Neighborhood dwellers started to notice us as well. By neighborhood dwellers, I mean the homeless and those who live in the buildings nearby. The crack folks seem to commute or something, because they weren't out during the snowstorm. Neighborhood dwellers walked by and some of them engaged us in conversation. Some were curious, others expressed thanks, and a few just stared. Some people asked if we were with the City (yeah right--like the city cares)(we didn't say that out loud). We also got stares from windows, but that was cool with us. One of the local businesses bought us a round of beers. Sweet!

The most interesting interaction came from a man who was walking down the street and stopped to talk with us. He was pretty intimidating and seemed as if he had been around the block. He stood close to us and asked us what we were doing and why? I was a bit intimidated, because he was asking so many questions and was pretty rough looking, but talked with him and shared our story. When I said we were volunteers, his demeanor changed and he seemed to relax. He said, oh, he used to be a landscaper. He picked up a rake and started to help us rake the bed. Then he gave us a lesson in raking, and showed us how we can finish off the bed so it looks perfect. The interaction was encouraging because it was an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to welcoming everyone.

Next week would be even more interesting....

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