Tuesday, July 25, 2017

{Guest Post} Just because someone considers them to be weeds, doesn't make them worthless

{Guest Post} Michael R. Wolf
Originally written to "SLUG (St. Luke's Urban Garden)" list

Last night, 4 fires were set at accumulations of stuff along the Burke-Gilman trail. They appear to (to most people's eyes) to have been piles of trash, including parts of chop-shopped (purportedly stolen) bikes. To other eyes, they were the accumulated belongings of unsheltered (FKA homeless) people.

As I biked home from Wallingford about an hour ago, I chatted with
* a news crew from KOMO 4 preparing to do a live news report, and
* 2 members of the Seattle Police Bomb Squad doing a fire investigation.

I get both sides of the issue. (Well, there are more than 2 sides, but these are 2 of them):

[Here's where it starts getting long. You can stop here if all you want is the "what".]

- People (of the unsheltered variety), by definition, have no shelter to store their "junk", and even if it appears as junk to us, if we were honest with ourselves, we have *many* times that amount. It's just hidden from view so it doesn't occur to us (or our neighbors) as "trash".

- People (of the sheltered variety), are frustrated at the increasing ugliness of the trash (NOT in double quotes) that overpowers the treasures inside, and a feeling of helplessness to make a difference as these accumulations grew over weeks and weeks.

(Notice that I started both of these points with the noun "People", not the adjectives "sheltered" or "unsheltered". That was deliberate.)

Since I don't have a crystal ball, I'm must speculatin'. Jus' sayin'. But I've also got some insights into both sides.

When I shared this news with Cannon Britt, her first words were "That's evil". And I agree. And.... after some discussion, she also acknowledged that she, too, feels frustrated at many of the activities that happen on (or near) St Luke's property. And.... she also *welcomes* these unsheltered people. Her feelings are both frustration AND welcoming.

To wit, I was sitting on the floor with the (very cute) little kids on Sunday when her "Children's talk" when she asked me (as the purported expert gardener) the (trick) question of "Which of these plants are weeds?", and I replied "Well... that depends on context. Some people would call of the plants, but they are pretty, too, so depending on the context they may not be considered weeds". That was, in fact the point of the "kid sermon" -- Just because someone considers them to be weeds, doesn't make them worthless. They're just out of place, or out of context. Her summary -- It's not wrong that people are camping on St Luke's property. It's wrong that there are not enough beds." That's a message (or reframing) the kids could get.

What's this got to do with SLUG, you may ask? Well, we're a COMMUNITY garden, and the COMMUNITY is learning how to coexist with itself. And the garden is part of that learning experiment. As frustrations flare up (pun intended), let's be a model for a good balance.

Canon Britt is good at being able to both welcome folks, but also to draw boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. I am not so great at that (yet), but I'm sure glad that she's around to model that kind of balance in her role as vicar (meaning "bishop's assistant in charge of a church or mission' - http://www.dictionary.com/browse/vicar) She's got a tough job straddling the roles of spiritual head of a mission church, and of the physical steward of the church's property. Tough job -- heart and head! (BTW... She's doing a great job!!!).

See you in the garden, along the Burke-Gilman trail (including the soon-to-be-completed "Missing Link"), and in the neighborhood....


P.S. As you might expect, I welcome a discussion. This is not a simple issue, so I don't expect that everyone will see it identically to me. And... I respect a respectful discussion (even if it's heated, passionate, or) as we live and learn.

{Guest Post} Michael R. Wolf
MichaelRWolf@att.net - LinkedIn.com/in/MRWolf 
"All mammals learn by playing"