Project Advent, Day 2: Downtown Trash Pickup


Lubbock had one of its first truly wintry days of the season today.  Temperatures that stayed in the low 30s, hazy mist hanging in the air, occasional flurries of snow here and there - naturally, I chose a project that took me outdoors today.  I know, I know, I could have changed plans and done something else, but I wasn't sure who to call on short notice, and besides, I don't like to change plans unless I have no other choice.  As it turns out, the weather actually made it really nice for what I wanted to do today.

I work in downtown Lubbock, an area which is slated for a massive revitalization and redevelopment, but which is currently not one of the more attractive areas of town.  (And before you go there in the comments, no, I don't really know what you would call an attractive area of Lubbock.)  At one time, it was a busy and interesting place.  I remember how exciting it was, as a kid, to drive down Broadway, paved with bricks and with beautiful Christmas decorations hanging from the streetlights.  Before there were other library branches, my mom would take us downtown to the Mahon Library every week for story time and to let us check out books.  Generations of Lubbockites have stories about going to the Hemphill-Wells department store with their moms, to shop for back-to-school clothes and (if you were lucky) eat at the lunch counter.  (As a sidenote, the building where HW once was is now the operations center of PlainsCapital Bank, a building in which I worked for several years.  There are still lots of cool nooks and crannies in that building that remind you of its previous life.)  Somewhere along the line, though, businesses started to move out, and the district started to slip.

In recent years, some of the downtown buildings have been renovated into condos and lofts, but you can't really say that anybody lives in downtown Lubbock, and this is one reason why I think there's maybe not as much pride around this part of town.  When a piece of trash blows into your front yard, you pick it up and throw it away.  When a piece of trash blows into the alley behind your office, well, who cares?

I care.  I work here.  I grew up here.  I have memories here.  My project today was to spend an hour picking up trash in downtown Lubbock.  I brought a 55 gallon trash bag and a pair of gloves with me, and went outside during my lunch to fill the bag.
If you ever want a really good way to meet strangers, or at least to have them talk to you, go outside and pick up some trash from a place where nobody was expecting that service to be performed.  Three different people asked me what I was doing ("Just picking up some trash!") and then wanted to know why.  The fun part was coming up with different answers each time.

To the lady walking into her office from her car: "Service project!"
To the man who was walking down the street:"Civic pride!"
To the police officer who pulled up behind me to check out what I was doing: "So that it won't be on the ground anymore!"

People thought I was cray-zay.  But it felt good to be out there doing something, and the cool air made the task a really comfortable one.  I actually ended up working just under an hour, because the bag had grown too heavy to keep carrying.  I'm going to call that a success.
I went back into the office, and my awesome co-worker Cindy had made a big crockpot full of taco chicken soup for the office to share.  It was really delicious, and warmed me right back up.
Gratitude Project:  After I left work, I picked up the kids and took them to see Santa Claus.  Blake and Ava had worked on notes for him last night, and they were all so excited.  We waited in line in the cold, but none of them complained even once.  When it was our turn, they were thrilled to hand Santa their notes, and they each took a moment to talk with him.  After a fifteen minute wait in line, each of them probably got about thirty seconds with the big man.  When we left, I took them for dinner at their favorite Chinese buffet.  The entire time we ate, they discussed every detail of their visit with Santa.  "Did you see when Mrs. Claus smiled at us?"  "Did you hear when he said that he liked my note?"

Tonight I am grateful for a reminder to stop and feel the awe and joy of Christmas, just like my children.
Blake's note
Ava's note


Ali said...

no sass today either. your kids' visit with santa was too sweet. it sucked the sass out of me.

although, i DO love that you told the cop that you were picking up trash so "it [wouldn't] be on the ground anymore."

Lisa said...

I love this project, you're awesome. :o)

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