Sunday, May 18, 2008

Snapshots from the Litter Detail

Yesterday was Chicago's annual Clean & Green Day, where the city provides resources to neighborhood groups who want to spruce up their blocks. We got a nice assortment of rakes, shovels, push-brooms, and gigantic plastic bags that looked alarmingly like body bags, but I digress.

We'd plastered the neighborhood with fliers promoting the event--not that our blocks were a disaster, but a little spring cleaning never hurts. I was shocked and honestly moved by the number of people who emerged from their houses at 10am. Neighbors on a simple 'hello' relationship were chatting together--it was such a beautiful day, wasn't it, or I'm worried about that vacant building on the corner, too--and putting together teams who would walk down the street: one holding the giant bag, the others gathering and discarding debris.

Every yard and parkway was mowed (thanks largely to nine-year-old Priscilla, who insisted on taking her father's mower and traveling from house to house), every piece of litter removed, and even a small garden got planted with the help of a handful of neighborhood kids. It may not look like much now, but trust me that it's a big improvement over the weed patch and soiled fabric flowers that dotted that corner for over a year. Our neighbor Willie even enlisted two elders from the Mormon Church (they'd come to his door to recruit him, so he recruited them instead) to help with the project. There they were in their white shirts and dark trousers, sweeping the street of thousands of maple-tree pinwheels.

When everything was done, some of those hard-working kids settled about the business of digging a hole in one of the greenways. I asked where they were digging to, and one especially bright-eyed girl paused for a second, put up her index finger, and said, "to the Earth's atmosphere."

There may be horrible and devastating things going on in the world, but it's a hopeful sign, to me, that kids don't dig to China anymore.
We had a nice rain overnight, and everything looked especially fresh and new this morning as I walked Inez. I hope we can keep it up over the course of the summer. Debris from 6-lane Fullerton Avenue just a block south is a constant challenge. So are the dandelions. But for now we can enjoy what we accomplished. Aside from the obvious child-labor violations, we managed to harness something lovely yesterday: a collective undertaking, and a true sense of place.


tracy said...

Lovely! This is the sense of neighborhood cooperation we can usually only dream of.

My jerkass neighbors won't even wave at me.

Diana Sudyka said...

Yay! That must have been tremendously satisfying. We're waiting for your neighborhood kids to come up here and clean up our block and alley!