The trash and dirt keep building up. There is a tipping point when people feel it is futile and no longer worth their time to pick it up. Once that line is breached, whether trash, living conditions, drugs or abusive boyfriends, people’s coping and ignoring skills kick in. We learn to just live with it and try not to notice. I have learned that these ignoring skills, perhaps called acceptance, are tremendously powerful and helpful tools for dealing with bad situations that you have no control over. This tool has an obvious problem, when control might be possible. The trash keeps piling up.
My time working on the outside of churches in depressed inner cities creates an abundance of interesting occurrences. It also creates a little bit of understanding of the plights and motivations of a great deal of the world’s population.
The first thing one learns is that the vast majority of these people are not looking for trouble. They can be quite friendly, However, hey have learned that interactions with wealthier professional people from the suburbs tend not to be helpful or self affirming to them in any way. Therefore, in those settings, most tend to keep to themselves, unless those interactions are the source of their income, whether through panhandling or conning. It makes for stereotype reinforcing behavior.
What started this whole story was my remembrance of a time when I was working in a particularly depressed area. Trash and dirt was everywhere. The church had hired a local man to go around with a gas powered leaf blower, blowing it all off of their property. Of course, wind happens, things eventually redistribute again. That’s actually a great description of the very tricky second law of thermodynamics. Anyway, as I was walking down the sidewalk in front of the church to get some tools, he was following right behind me, at the same pace, pointing his blower at my heels. I found myself walking in a mini tornado of trash. I had a long way to go and it was starting to feel like a permanent situation. It was funny and maddening at the same time. I had a decision to make. Was I pissed or amused? Tough call. But when I imagined what this must look like to an outsider, I could not help but bust out laughing. I think he might have just been in his own world, perhaps.