Thursday, March 20, 2014
The Common Good
No pictures today...simply feeling like I have something I need to say.
Living in close quarters with a million or so other people as you can imagine is quite a change from living on your own property out on acreage in the country. In my time in Chicago I have been learning much about big city life, Chicago style. In the city and the country the people around you affect how you live and the quality of your life and of the neighborhood. That effect is multiplied in the city due to the sheer number of people and their close proximity.
I've learned in Chicago during the winter, that folks who park on the street shovel the parking space where their car is parked after a snow storm and call dibs, you know, dibs, how kids claim seats in the car, swings on the playground etc. They claim dibs by placing an object, a chair, a child's toy, or even some stray branches in their spot and expect the rest of the community to honor their spot. There has been quite a discussion in the city about whether parking dibs should be honored and of course some dibs shovelers have had not so peaceful encounters with other drivers who have parked in "their" spots. The philosophy of the dibs system is just the opposite of doing something for the common good.
With the amount of snow we've had this winter, you can imagine that getting anywhere on city sidewalks that aren't shoveled is a challenge at best. Even though I have only a small area of sidewalk in front of our place, I shoveled, and shoveled, and shoveled again. It makes it easier for me, but also for everyone else who walks my little stretch of sidewalk. As I see folks struggling to move around the neighborhood, I think about those who don't bother. Our upstairs neighbor, who walks to the train everyday, complained to my hubby about the icy sidewalks and how tough his walk is. He hasn't shoveled once. There is no snow fairy. One day the guy next door (from the apt. management company) saw me out shoveling and zipped down my sidewalk with his snow blower. What a guy! If each of us pitches in, it's better for everyone.
At least once a week I spent time in the alley organizing trash. Yes, I said it, I organize trash. I guess I am the trash fairy. Winter is tough for people in Chicago, but it is party time for rats. People shovel the area behind their garages and it's great to be able to get out of your garage, but they thoughtlessly throw snow on or in front of trash cans making them inaccessible. Instead of working together to make things accessible, folks just pile on, and even where there are empty cans, people are too lazy to walk a few yards to use them. And when the snow melts, you don't even want to see what appears. I crush boxes to make room in the recycle cans and move other people's trash to empty cans. Every time I see a rat I work harder to keep the alley clean.
Twice this winter yellow pages phone books have been delivered in the neighborhood. Can you guess where most of them still are? Many times when Bruno and I walk the neighborhood, I take a trash bag with me and pick up things as we go. I grew up with the Don't be a Litterbug campaign. It's hard for me to walk past trash on the street and not pick it up. As I watch folks walk up their front steps and over piled up Red Plum newspapers, yellow pages, and advertising flyers, I wonder, do they not see it, do they just not care?
I could rave on...you probably don't want me to to talk dog poop. It needs to rain for days and days to wash the filth away in the neighborhood. Do we believe in the common good?
I know many people do, but it's gets hard sometimes to believe it.
I'm looking forward to spring and those people who plant flowers to enjoy in their yards, but also to share with those of us who need a boost and a little color and beauty to make it through the day. I'm planting a few for the common good.