People generally fall into one of two groups: those who talk about doing stuff and those who actually do it. I think it's safe to say my neighbor Darrin Flynn falls squarely in the latter group.
My biggest complaint about my neighborhood is the litter. There are too many teens, kids and uncaring adults who think nothing about dropping their empty chip bags, cigarette packs, pop cans, beer bottles, etc., on the sidewalk, in the street, in other people's yards.... It drives me crazy! This is NOT the ghetto! This is actually a really nice neighborhood with all the amenities a city girl without a car could possibly want. I wish everyone else who lives up here felt the same way and took some pride in their neighborhood. Every now and then I get so fed up, I put on a pair of garden gloves and pick up whatever garbage has accumulated on the parkway or in the courtyard of my building—just so I don't have to look at it anymore!
So, when a guy named Darrin started a post on EveryBlock.com inviting us to form a weekly neighborhood trash pick-up crew "Saturdays at 10 am," I thought, Why not? I liked the take-action tone of the post. Darrin wrote, "If you are in, you are in. If you're not, you're not... I don't want to hear all the 'that's not my job,' 'we pay people for that,' 'it's the alderman's fault,' etc. This is where we live and I was taught that you take care of yourself AND your neighbors/family."
I could relate. Plus, it was a good opportunity to get to know more of my neighbors. "Count me in," I replied. That was on Sunday.
Well, the following Saturday got off to a gray start. Rain was in the forecast. I had overslept.
Do I gotta? I started whining to myself, wanting nothing more than to roll over and slumber just a little...while...longer. A big wet nose stuck in my face put an end to that fantasy. As the caretaker of a big black dog, I was obligated to get up and go outside, whether I wanted to or not. So, I sighed, sat up and stretched, shuffled over to my computer and posted on EveryBlock I might not make it if it was raining and I'd be late regardless. Then I got dressed, got some coffee in my system, grabbed a pair of gardening gloves, Mickey's leash and headed out the door with my VERY eager lab.
Unfortunately, it wasn't raining, so Mickey and I started walking toward the predetermined meeting spot (Howard/Rogers/Greenview 6-way intersection). I noticed a couple of people with garbage bags heading toward me on Jonquil. They were still a couple of blocks away. Although I hadn't met them before face-to-face, I decided it was Darrin and a young lady named Jessi who'd recently moved into the neighborhood. Sure enough, they were picking up litter as they made their way toward Gale School.
And that's how I met Darrin and Jessi for the first time. They had been picking up trash for the past 45 minutes and had already covered several blocks and filled several bags.
My first question, after we'd made our introductions: "Where are your gloves?" I asked. Darrin blew it off. I don't mind getting dirty, he said. I'm pretty sure I wrinkled my nose a little, thinking about the germs. But I immediately forgot about their lack of proper tools when Darrin started telling us the story about how he interacted with some kids who were making themselves at home on his jeep. He said when they copped an attitude after he told them to get off of HIS car, his comeback was so no-nonsense that, to this day, when they see him, they make way and treat him with respect. Most importantly, they do NOT sit on his car anymore.
I was like, No kidding? Is this guy for real?
Within 5 minutes of meeting Darrin Flynn I was professing my love for him (platonically, of course; he is in a committed relationship). I loved his energy, enthusiasm for life, his great sense of humor and flair for the dramatic. As we made our way up and down the streets of our neighborhood, picking up cans and bottles and paper and wrappers, we were gabbing away as if we'd known one another for years.
We called it a day about 45 minutes later. (Darrin's partner had called to remind him about all they had planned for the rest of the day.) We had harvested a fair amount of litter and laughed a lot. And that was with just three of us (one of whom was ridiculously late).
"Imagine how quickly we could get this done if there were 20 of us," Jessi said, optimistically. Hell, I'd be happy if we were a gang of five. But at least we were getting out there and getting it done! Several of our EveryBlock neighbors did their own trash pick-up closer to their respective homes. One guy is a regular neighborhood litter picker-upper in his part of the Rogers Park community south of us. We also chatted up some neighbors along the way and encouraged them to join us next week.
Although I was hot and sweaty before we were done (OK, let me be honest; I was hot and sweaty about 30 seconds after I started), I sure did feel better about my neighborhood. Darrin posted a report on EveryBlock that evening.
"Great day for garbage!!!" he wrote. "Ended up with 12 stuffed bags and streets that included: Howard, Bosworth, Greenview, Rogers, Jonquil, Ashland and Marshfield. Thanks for the help and if you can't make it on Saturdays, post a day that you are able to do it and see if anyone can join you. Great opportunity to meet some neighbors and make some others wonder what in the heck is going on!!!"
If anyone would care to join us next Saturday, we're going to meet at 10 am at the corner of Jonquil and Marshfield (by Gale School). Mayra Gomez, CPD Area 3 CAPS coordinator, has offered to donate gloves and trash bags for our next meetup. Hope to see you then.