No Black and White
We like organization, structure and lists. We like to be able to say, “this goes here and that goes there.” In movies and I think in life we like to know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.
Real life, as I am learning, isn’t that easy.
For instance, this weekend we planted a small orchard. Along with a few friends from Rochester Church of Christ, we plated seventeen applet trees on a vacant lot just a few blocks away. As we were planting we began watching the neighborhood wake up, start moving around and a couple of dealers start doing business in front of their houses.
One guy would eye-ball us every twenty minutes or so and head back into the house. Eventually he walked over.
“What’s this? What are you guys doing?” he asked.
“Well, we bought this vacant lot and decided to clean it up, plant some trees on it and keep it looking nice for the neighborhood.” I said, I’m sure stumbling over my words.
“So, you’re planting trees here? Apple trees?”
Now mind you, this guy was big and intimidating. He had tattoos from his neck, across his chest and down his arms. We’d watched him run to the street, change hands with money and drugs and watched him walk back in the house on several occasions. He, if were were to categorize him, would easily fall under “bad guy.” Which is why the next thing that happened was so surprising.
“That’s cool as hell man. Do you need to use a lawn mower?”
“What?” I asked.
“I noticed your lawn mower didn’t start, you want to use mine?” It was true. The lawnmower that we had brought was in need of a new spark plug and had failed to start.
“Sure.” I said.
He walked in his house and pulled out his lawn mower. We put gas in it and started it up. When I had finished mowing the lot I took it back over. “Thanks man,” I said.
“Hey no problem! If you ever need to use it, you know where it is. And I tell you this…” He got really serious, “Ain’t no one going to mess with your stuff [EDITED FOR LANGUAGE]. I’m going to protect it.”
When I talk about the work here, I often say that people recognize universal goods. Meaning, the everyone on the block sees our neighborhood events as a good thing because it brings people together, the kids come out and play and it creates a sense of community here. It doesn’t matter if you’re the sweet grandmother on the block or the drug dealer, you can see that what is going on is a good thing.
It’s a cool thing to navigate these things here. I’ve had presuppositions shattered as well as upheld almost daily.
The adventure continues.