Monthly Archives: January 2009

Cleaning up is a suspicious business

Last Saturday, Jan. 17, we went out and cleaned up some of the unpleasantness at 31st and Davenport. There was a whole slew of mess to clean up, but we stuck to mostly brush and weeds, which was more than enough to fill Andy’s truck. The trash will have to wait until the snow is gone.

As soon as we showed up, I thought to myself, “Someone is going to call the cops on us.”
Sure enough, about 30 minutes into it, three cops showed up and said someone told them we were dumping stuff. They immediately realized we weren’t and that, in fact, we were doing the complete opposite, so they left.
It was funny because we showed up with a completely empty pickup truck that got fuller and fuller, but someone still thought we were dumping.
It’s understandable. It was an odd thing we were doing. It’s not like we were painting a house or helping an elderly woman across the street, something you see and immediately say, “Oh, that’s a good thing.” We were four strangers rummaging around in a corner of the neighborhood that needed some attention.
All things considered, it was a great day.

Real Redemption: leveraging what we’ve got

One of the most rewarding ways I’ve found of expressing my Christian faith has been to leverage what I’ve got to transform neighborhoods for the better. These kinds of projects have all sorts of mixed motives– wanting to buy a cheap building, wanting to improve my own town or neighborhood… But getting old run down buildings that no one else seems to see value in, and redeeming them and making them come back to life– making the ugly beautiful again– this is really a wonderful and fulfilling task to be involved in. I suppose it is not unlike Goethe’s Faust where he finds satisfaction in taking the land back from the sea with dikes and windmills. This real estate redemption is a matter of taking back places from the destruction of neglect and disregard. Of course maybe part of my attraction to houses is that they are easier to deal with in some ways than people. As I’ve worked on these properties, I have made friends with a number of semi-homeless and less fortunate, who help me out along the way. It has been great to work alongside them, and through paying them to give them a sense of pride in their work and dignity. But I still see that most of their money goes to beer and cigarettes, so its hard to see the progress there sometimes… I’d be interested to know if anyone has ideas on strategies I could use to try to help improve their lives more through this process… -andy