Project Advent II, Day 7: Tent City


Today was another really good day.  I'd been saving my last week of time off to use it during the week of Christmas, but then it turned out I wasn't going to be able to do that.  Since my vacation time resets on 1/1, and none of it rolls over, there's no way I was going to let any of my days go unused.  I'm taking off every Friday in December.

Because I had the morning free, I went to chapel at the kids' school, and Ava sat with me.  Each day during chapel, they recognize any children who have birthdays that day, and then read a prayer over them from the Book of Common Prayer.  On the page facing it was a prayer I wish I'd seen yesterday.
However, there was another that certainly seemed applicable to today's task:
I left the school and went to Lubbock's Tent City, located just south of the fairgrounds.  A couple of years ago, even before the Occupy movement, a group of Lubbock's homeless set up tents on a piece of municipally-owned land on the corner of a busy downtown street.  There was lots of talk about what should be done, and whether they should be able to stay, until a group called Link Ministries purchased this land on the edge of town and began transforming it into a space where a more permanent facility could exist.  Is this ideal?  No, of course not.  The ideal would be for everybody to have real shelter to go to every night, but this is something that is needed, and it's filling a need in our community.

This fall has been very unseasonably warm.  Nearly every day has been around 80 degrees.  This is good news for the residents of tent city, in that it hasn't been as bitter for them as last winter was.  It's bad news because warm temperatures this late in the year mean that the grass has continued growing, giving a place for pests to take shelter.  When I arrived today, most of the grounds were covered in grass about two to three feet high.

There are several groupings of large green army-style tents around the grounds, set up in rows.  The grounds manager asked that I try to drive the riding mower in a pattern that would point the discharge chute away from tents as much as possible, to minimize the dust and debris that would blow into the tents, and that was about the only request they made before I was off!  I've never driven a riding mower before today, but it was kind of fun.  I am completely serious about this: if I'm ever a lottery winner, I would quit my job and fill my days doing lawn mowing.  I really enjoy it.  I love how there is a job with clear parameters, a defined goal, and measurable progress, and you can look at it with pride when you're done.

It took a while to finish the whole place, and when I did, I was covered from head to toe in dust.  I had plans to meet a friend for lunch today, and I was planning to go straight to that, but I had to come back home and take a shower first.  My hair looked sand-colored from all the dust that had settled in it, and my glasses were practically opaque.  Luckily, I'd thought to bring a respirator mask with me.  See?  Here it is, sitting pristine and unused right where I forgot it and left it in my car while I mowed.
If you hear the sound of thunder tonight, that's just me, snoring through lungs full of Lubbock dirt.

I'm going to brag on my handiwork a little bit.  I didn't take a before picture, but here's the grounds after I was finished mowing.
Affirmation Project: The friend I had lunch with today was Captain Roy Bassett of the LPD, a friend from church.  There's a lot that I appreciate about him.  First, he's a really top-notch dad, and I take a lot of inspiration from watching him and his wife Jennifer with their two beautiful daughters.  Second, he's generous.  I think I may have shared this story before, but when my dad was in the hospital last year, there was a night that I badly wanted to go and see him during visiting hours.  My lawn was due to be treated by the Permagreen guy the next morning, though, and I had to mow and edge it before they came.  When I put out a call for help on Facebook, asking if somebody would edge and trim while I mowed, Roy almost immediately sent back a message telling me just to go to the hospital, and that he would take care of the whole thing.  He gave me another night with my dad.

Third is something that I just thought of today.  I know that I sometimes have a pie-in-the-sky view of things.  I want the world to be a certain way.  I've been fortunate enough never to have somebody else purposely inflict a grievous harm upon me.  But Roy has served in the police department for a lot of years.  He's seen things just this week that I hope I'll never see anything close to.  He's out there doing that so that guys like me can continue to hold onto our pie-in-the-sky view of things.  I'm grateful for that.


brandy said...

I feel l have the same pie in the sky view as you Danny so I want to give a heartfelt thanks to Roy also! Roy you rock! Thank you for your service!

Ali said...

Nice mowing! You showed that 2' - 3' of grass who was boss!

I'm grateful for people like Roy, too. I hope I get to meet this particular hero some day.

Maria Satterwhite said...

This is awesome! Thank you so much for doing this and sharing about this place. I've worked with people experiencing homelessness for almost 7 years now, and I've learned so much from them. I imagine a lot of people choose to live in tent city (as they do other places like this) b/c it's safer than a shelter and b/c there aren't any conditions on their housing. We have a tendency to make people do things in order to earn their shelter for the night (like being sober, attending a church service, lining up for 2 hours to get in). These things may not seem like a big deal to us, but the requirements further the idea that there's a difference between "us" and "them" and that we know better than they do how they should be living their lives. No one deserves to sleep outside in the freezing cold, no matter what they're struggling with.

A friend of mine once said something to me that has really stayed with me, especially in my work with people experiencing homelessness. He said "We all know the golden rule, "Treat others like you want to be treated," but perhaps we should strive to live by the platinum rule, "Treat others the way THEY want to be treated." <3 thank you!!

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