August 31, 2019-
The day began with my usual Saturday ritual: Get up, sans alarm, devotions, coffee& paper and a visit to Farmer’s Market. What is different today was the call to clean up. A local business owner found an abandoned homeless camp near and around his property, in a wooded area by Granite Creek, one of Prescott’s many streams. The creek flows into Watson Lake, a reservoir that is also a prime boating and fishing venue. Thus, it’s a good idea to keep the watershed clean of trash and debris, a notion that has not been front and center for those who regard themselves as desperate for a place to live, or for those who rousted the squatters out of their encampment, nearly a month ago.
One longtime friend of the owner has been steadfast in helping him clean the place, over the past three days. I joined them today, and will do so again on Monday morning and any morning that I am not working, Wednesday-Friday of the coming week. Much of the large items, like tents, blankets, coats, and sleeping bags were bagged and set for disposal on Tuesday. Disclosure: NONE of the items are salvageable, as water and mud have rendered them useless. This is the cost of “sweeps”, and of random, ungoverned squatter camps.
That brings up a broader issue: The matter of personal responsibility for self and for community. The lay minister who was my partner on this endeavour, this morning, raised a valid point as to the tendency of people to leave solutions to issues to government- or to some other group. Many people in Prescott, and in other places across the globe, tell themselves that it’s the government’s job to tend to social issues. This attitude can be shown either vocally(including online posts, telling the police, Parks & Recreation, etc. to “Do their job”) or by attrition (i.e. volunteering for an activity, then just not showing up).
I was, thankfully, raised to take responsibility for the neighbourhood and/or the community, and trust me, I was not always the kind of child who wanted to get out and volunteer for such projects. My parents kept after us anyway, and instilled that sense of community involvement.
There are as many ways to “cleanse” a community and build its strength, as there are people. The Red Cross effort to make sure smoke alarms are working, in modular homes and more conventional dwellings, is also an effort that is gaining steam here.
Lastly, the cultural strength of a community matters greatly, in building a civil society. The Folk Sessions and Concerts at the the Court House are a major piece of this effort, as are the art fairs, soccer matches and the Farmer’s Market itself. Last night, an intrepid young woman,who I am proud to regard as a friend, made Prescott a stop on her way from Portland to Boston, just for the sake of supporting the musical scene in a town that welcomed her, three years ago.
There are many ways to build a community-and I know of shut-ins who make quilts or stuff backpacks for needy kids, in the new school year, or the disabled man who fashioned an “adventure train” for stray dogs, whom he takes out of the shelter, two or three days a week. I am fortunate to still be able to be of more ambulatory service, and thank my spirit guides and the Creator for this.
Just, let’s not pass the buck back to the next one, or to the Government.