Monday, January 19, 2009

Day of service

Celebrating the Martin Luther King holiday with service projects is not really new. But President Obama's call for mass participation this year led to doubling of the number of projects known to the MLK Day.gov site, where the slogan is "Make it a day on, not a day off."

Obama's fans came out in force.

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In the Mission district, a group assembled to pick up street litter. We always have ample supplies of that.

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Each little crew was sent off with maps of their turf -- just as many probably had been when canvassing during the campaign. They were told not to pick up needles -- just mark the location for the Department of Public Works to follow up. I usually step on and crush stray needles myself. It seems like a public spirited thing to do.

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Over by Bernal Heights, just off Bayshore, a group came together to clean out below an underpass.

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There was plenty of trash just behind CalTrans' fences.

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And lots up against the fences too.

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Adventurous cleaners went over the fence.

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And found a lot of stinky stuff.
***
I admit to some ambivalence about these projects. President Obama clearly wants to remind us that sometimes individual satisfaction has to be put aside for the sake of the community. (The guy is beginning to act like the national kindergarten teacher ... that's okay I suppose. We need one.)

His lesson seems good and necessary. But it also seems a little hokie. Can't we form communities that are a little more organic, that seem less contrived? Don't we know we survive by caring for each other? Maybe we only remember the obvious if we occasionally repeat the lesson.

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On the way home, I drove down Cesar Chavez Street.

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The usual clusters of unemployed day laborers stood along the sidewalks, occasionally waving at a passing truck, hoping for some pick up work.

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These folks work, if lucky, for a pittance everyday, doing the sorts of stuff the volunteer crews were dabbling at. Many of them are supporting families south of the border. I imagine they have some community among themselves -- they certainly have a common interest in avoiding the immigration police.

Their community, whatever shape it takes and I don't claim to know, seems an almost infinite distance from the good people sweeping and bagging trash in today's King day projects.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jan,
I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on the silencing of Robinson's prayer. Seems to me that whenever I become the least bit hopeful, there's always someone or something poised to remind me where LGBT people stand in the world. I wasn't expecting this - in fact I stayed home from church yesterday so I could watch and listen to Robinson's prayer for Obama and the nation.
Your comments would be appreciated.
jackie

Anne Vis said...

Cute comment about Obama as kindergarten teacher ... wouldn't have thought of that one ... :-)Sometimes good intentions have side effects that you would not want to ... like the collection of old clothes for developing countries puts locals out of business ...

Naj said...

Interesting post ...

Now I am watching the TV shows to see if ugly disturbing shows like the Survivors or any other one of those promoting the "survival of the filthiest" mentality will give place to other reality shows that exhibit the value of human cooperation, collaboration, sacrifice and sharing ...

I am beginning to think Bush was the best thing that could have happened to the world

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