Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Common Good


No pictures today...simply feeling like I have something I need to say.

Living in close quarters with a million or so other people as you can imagine is quite a change from living on your own property out on acreage in the country.  In my time in Chicago I have been learning much about big city life, Chicago style.  In the city and the country the people around you affect how you live and the quality of your life and of the neighborhood.  That effect is multiplied in the city due to the sheer number of people and their close proximity.

I've learned in Chicago during the winter, that folks who park on the street shovel the parking space where their car is parked after a snow storm and call dibs, you know, dibs, how kids claim seats in the car, swings on the playground etc.  They claim dibs by placing an object, a chair, a child's toy, or even some stray branches in their spot and expect the rest of the community to honor their spot.  There has been quite a discussion in the city about whether parking dibs should be honored and of course some dibs shovelers have had not so peaceful encounters with other drivers who have parked in "their" spots.  The philosophy of the dibs system is just the opposite of doing something for the common good.

With the amount of snow we've had this winter, you can imagine that getting anywhere on city sidewalks that aren't shoveled is a challenge at best.  Even though I have only a small area of sidewalk in front of our place, I shoveled, and shoveled, and shoveled again.  It makes it easier for me, but also for everyone else who walks my little stretch of sidewalk.  As I see folks struggling to move around the neighborhood, I think about those who don't bother.  Our upstairs neighbor, who walks to the train everyday, complained to my hubby about the icy sidewalks and how tough his walk is.  He hasn't shoveled once.  There is no snow fairy.  One day the guy next door  (from the apt. management company) saw me out shoveling and zipped down my sidewalk with his snow blower.  What a guy! If each of us pitches in, it's better for everyone.

At least once a week I spent time in the alley organizing trash.  Yes, I said it, I organize trash.  I guess I am the trash fairy.  Winter is tough for people in Chicago, but it is party time for rats.  People shovel the area behind their garages and it's great to be able to get out of your garage, but they thoughtlessly throw snow on or in front of trash cans making them inaccessible.  Instead of working together to make things accessible, folks just pile on, and even where there are empty cans, people are too lazy to walk a few yards to use them.  And when the snow melts, you don't even want to see what appears.  I crush boxes to make room in the recycle cans and move other people's trash to empty cans. Every time I see a rat I work harder to keep the alley clean.

Twice this winter yellow pages phone books have been delivered in the neighborhood.  Can you guess where most of them still are?  Many times when Bruno and I walk the neighborhood, I take a trash bag with me and pick up things as we go.  I grew up with the Don't be a Litterbug campaign.  It's hard for me to walk past trash on the street and not pick it up.  As I watch folks walk up their front steps and over piled up Red Plum newspapers, yellow pages, and advertising flyers, I wonder, do they not see it, do they just not care?

I could rave on...you probably don't want me to to talk dog poop.  It needs to rain for days and days to wash the filth away in the neighborhood.  Do we believe in the common good?
I know many people do, but it's gets hard sometimes to believe it.

I'm looking forward to spring and those people who plant flowers to enjoy in their yards, but also to share with those of us who need a boost and a little color and beauty to make it through the day. I'm planting a few for the common good.

58 comments:

Jan said...

I really can't image people living like you've reported. I've only visited Chicago, once, briefly for a convention. I have gone to NYC annually, for at least 10 years. What you're describing sounds like NYC's previous incarnation; it's not like that now. I believe the change is due to better leadership. Here's hoping Chicago gets some better leaders.

Jan said...

I forgot to say, kudos to you for doing the right thing!

jacquie said...

Leadership can make a difference, but I think it's our city and it's the individuals (one by one) that will make it a great place to live.

Laura said...

I live in a medium-sized city where people are mostly considerate and helpful. We're not quite so piled on top of each other; that probably has something to do with it. I find the trash disconcerting, though - mostly remnants of fast food and beer purchases. I wonder why people feel free to dump these things on the streets and sidewalks. I attribute it mostly to younger people, but who knows? Sure would be nice if they'd find a trash can.

Gail Baar said...

Jacquie:

I agree! I live in a Chicago suburb, it's the same all over. The people who have their driveway plowed for them, but the snow from the plow blocks the sidewalk, so people then have to walk in the street. Some people shovel their driveway, but not the sidewalk-how hard is that to do when you have a snowblower? My son lives in the city, I know what you mean about the dog poop, the snow not shoveled. And no one seems to be able to see trash laying around. It is beneath them to pick it up. I don't understand why they can't have people move their cars when it snows, so the plow can clear the whole streets? I think people, in general think they shouldn't have to do things. You are right, a different mind-set than we remember-don't be a litter bug!

Dee said...

I'm sure it's multiplied by the sheer numbers of people, but living in a small town...let me tell you....it's an entitlement mentality, microwave society, what's in it for me and forget those around me. Parents teach and model it to their children not just with disrespecting other people in the way you describe, but on so many different levels in so many different ways.

We participate in clean-up campaigns and have tried to teach our kids to clean-up after themselves and do what they can to help others! Bless you for doing what you do and talking about it!

kelly o! said...

Thank you for making the world a more beautiful place, in so many ways!

I wonder if part of the "not seeing so not doing anything about it" mentality has to do with a lack of creative vision. Artists and makers are able to see so much potential...and *do* something with it...that maybe, sadly, others are not.

Of course, the cynic in me thinks it's more a matter of a "not my problem" attitude....

Kristy said...

I think with it being the first day of Spring...lots of people must be thinking the same thing. Be kind to your neighbor, be the change you want to see, etc.

Sarah from YesandYes! wrote a post about 19 Random Acts of Kindness today and it's funny because you both speak of trash. http://www.yesandyes.org/2014/03/random-acts-of-kindness.html?showComment=1395323880261#c1192613294054047017

Beth said...

Lived in Chicago. Understand "dibs". Bravo for making your corner of the world better.

Pat said...

I surely can relate!! I live between two cities. Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. And I live in a condo. We have exactly the same problems with parking, snow, trash, and picking up after dogs. It's sad, really. Kudos to you for pitching in. There will always be those who won't or can't but the rest of us need to pick up the slack ... like it or not. :-)

allieh said...

I do, Jacquie, I'm with you! I can be pretty grumpy and intolerant, but overall I want this world to be a place that I *want* to live in and can be happy that my children live it. Sadly, not enough people think this way. I too pick up stray bits of trash when I see it. On the sidewalk, ESPECIALLY at my girl's softball field. In fact, that's my go to when my little one is misbehaving or wants so snack money. I don't have a lot of hope that the world is going to get more caring, but as long as I can keep committed to making *MY* world the best place, I can rest easy at night. I love you, beautiful trash fairy!!

Sarah Hasse said...

I live in Chicago too and this winter has been especially harsh. With so much snow, I think a lot of people gave up and are just riding it out. We rent a parking spot, and our landlord refused to shovel or even salt most of the time. It looks like most of our neighbors throw their trash out of their windows and just hope it makes it into the dumpster (which are closed because of the rats you mentioned) so of course everything ends up on the ground, paper and food scraps flying everywhere. And yes, dog owners who refuse to pick up after their animals should be fined. Police and other city employees are too busy, landlords too lazy, and people just get away with it. I'm hoping with some green maybe I won't see it as much, but I'm with you. It would be so much better for everyone if there was an attitude of "we're in this together" rather than "what's the easiest for ME right now".

Chris said...

Amen sister! And bless you for pitching in. We are lucky to have excellent neighbors (in a Chicago suburb)who help each other out on snow days, and mostly - I say mostly - shovel their walks. Being from Minnesota originally, we had "snow removal pride" up there, you don't just shovel, you get it clean down to the pavement or sidewalk. It's also an ordinance that you MUST remove the snow, for safety. Dog owners, don't get me started - I have been known to pick up other dogs poop besides our own...especially ON the sidewalk, that just amazes me.
But - spring is coming, hooray!

Sharon said...

I hear you loud and clear, however, I've lived in the rural small town and seen plenty of trashy people there. Yards that have no space due to junk piled up. Yeah to planting the flowers, when I go for walks and see yards with flowers, (it doesn't even have to be fancy), I think "nice people live there"

wintunancy said...

Well said! I agree with you completely. A friend and I walk on our 'river trail' that the community has worked so hard to provide. It's paved with enough room for bike riders and pedestrians, and that's another story that I won't even get into about sharing the path. Anyway, I find myself picking up fishing line with hooks and old batteries so that the wildlife won't eat them and have trouble. I'm not sure why some people just don't care about not taking care of the space that we all use. I guess we don't want to know what their personal space looks like!

Molly said...

I hear ya ....

I'm going to take a trash bag on my walk tonight and clean up my little part of the world a little bit. Thanks for the food for thought.

Brenda said...

up here in Winnipeg where the winter never seems to stop, we have to deal with the non-shovelers as well. we live on a corner lot, so we have more than double the sidewalk to clear, but we do that so people can walk safely. most people are good with shoveling until the end of the winter, when we just want it to go away!

Sara said...

You are my hero.

Cheryl said...

and when it does rain, all the dog poo and litter gets flushed into our creeks and makes an even bigger mess. we don't have snow here, so the trash is visible all year round. thanks for helping spread the word...

Irelle said...

Great post, Jacquie. Sometimes it seems like the selfish, "me"- oriented people out there are multiplying too fast! We don't have the snow issue out here and hopefully do a better job of stewardship and treading lightly than many communities but the problems you describe are common everywhere. Good for you for making us all think about the common good!

Sharon said...

You are a good woman, Jacquie!

sophie said...

I have lived in many places in my life so far: big cities, small towns and everything in between. At some point, it occurred to me that the consideration that people show strangers says something about them and the culture of that community. Your post reminded me of some of my own surprising observations when I moved from California to Michigan. It's so easy to be kind and thoughtful to others, but it's not the choice made by everyone. I simply don't get it.

Mary P said...

You brought back so many memories of Chicago Jacquie! Large groups (and cities) have what is known as the "free rider" problem where people think they won't be noticed for the good or bad they contribute. :( Very sad. When I lived in Boston (Cambridge and Brookline to be exact), it was mandatory to shovel your sidewalk or you would be fined. The only exceptions were people who applied for waivers that they posted on their window(ie disabled/elderly). I realize we shouldn't have to legislate to get people to do the right thing, but in this case, it worked. I never understood why Chicago couldn't do something similar.

Jenelle said...

I have a hard time understanding how people can compartmentalize behavior like that. The dog poop thing is actually big deal here in Seattle since we are right on the sound. Dog poop has bacteria in it that can make marine mammals very sick, so when it rains hard and all of that washes unfettered into the bay, the baby seals are the ones that suffer (and sometimes die). Even with tons of signage pleading with people to clean up after their pets and keep them off the beaches, it doesn't seem to change the behavior of some folks.

Lisa E said...

Love your post. I too am one of those people who think about the greater good and hopt to instill that into my 2 teenagers. I am fortunate to live about 45 minutes south of San Francisco in Silicon Valley. We don't have the problems that you mention in your post, but I do little things when I can. When I walk around the neighborhood, I pick up the trash that accumulates. Someone spilled a garbage can in front of my daughter's dance studio. According to my daughter it had been there for days, so I cleaned it up. I move grocery carts out of the parking spaces and bring them back into the stores. Yes, we can make small differences every day and they can add up to be big. Thanks for the reminder.

Kimberly said...

Amen.

Karen said...

I totally agree! I live in Australia in a townhouse and am constantly keeping the letterbox area tidy and picking up rubbish. It really isn't that hard is it? I am trying to instill this in my son as I think these qualities make the world a better place.

Carol said...

UGH! Such a simple thing people could do to make the world and our neighborhoods a better place. You are certainly going above and beyond for your area. I can't imagine going from a country life to the hustle of a huge city. I also wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your episode on The Quilt Show I watched last weekend. It was so nice to hear you talk and get a little more insight into your ideas. Would love to take a class from you one day or at least get to attend a lecture.

Sharon said...

Lol….Litter Pigs are every where, as are Non-Shovelers and Inconsiderate Shovelers.
I grew up with the tearful Native American paddling thru polluted waters, and was so affected by it that I have been picking up trash ever since.

The snow is melting here in Michigan, and the amount of garbage and newspapers being unearthed is astounding!

Janet M said...

Living up here in Michigan in the Burbs of Detroit. My husband loves the snow and spent most of this winter removing it from our property and helping our neighbors. They have done for us too. The inconsiderate, selfish ones will always be out there and are more noticeable because of what they do or don't do!

Leanne said...

It's a little different in my city, there are some rules and such, but then Canadians are more willing to make those rules maybe. It's a little hard to lead by example when so many folks are rushing by to their train or whatever and don't notice or stop to help but I bet it is making it a lot nicer to be on your street.

karen said...

Wow, I can't even imagine! I'm sure I would feel EXACTLY the way you do. People are such selfish slobs. I don't think I would ever be able to live in a big city or any place with that much snow. Great post.

Grandma Ruthie said...

In 2006 my husband and I moved from our home and 3.5 acres outside of a my home town of 85,000 to Calcutta India, home of 17 million people in ten square miles. I know and feel your pain! That being said, it was a great experience. Hang in there Spring will come, yes she will.....yes she will

MariQuilts said...

That can make winter so tough. We are snowed under every winter but calling dibs on parking spot is unheard of and most people that have snow blowers help their neighbours especially if they are unable. We are pretty careful where we pile out snow as well and trust me those piles can be pretty high. I'm thankful for such a considerate neighbours!

Charlotte said...

I can only imagine how having that much snow around for months on end makes everything impossible to keep clean/tidy. It does make me wonder what our excuse is in London (especially with dog poo)

Sew HappyNess said...

Kudos for making a difference in your corner of the world. Someone will change their habit because of you and they in turn will affect another change. You are the change maker *she says in a dramatic voice with emotive music playing in the background*
Seriously though, what you do WILL make a difference.

Alicia said...

Our neighbors are all 1-1/2 or 2 acres away. Thank you, Lord! I feel for you, Jacquie, & wonder why you live in such a place but realize that's likely the "modern" that comes through in your quilts. So without the big city....well, who knows? I'm happiest here in southern Oklahoma's "short grass" area (cows ate it). When I'm out in the pasture with nature (& cows!) is where I get my best ideas! If only I got to EXECUTE those ideas! lol It's not a laughing matter, though, how the culture has become so throw-away & lacking in the kind of pride that keeps property in order. Spring HAS sprung here!

patty a. said...

I am with you Jacquie! People are slobs and inconsiderate. We have had a lot of snow in Ohio, but there is no sidewalk in front of my house so I only have to shovel the driveway and there is plenty of space to toss the snow in the yard. The people that shovel their driveways and throw the snow into the plowed streets drive me crazy! I watch a lot of professional bicycle racing and in Europe the spectators pick up trash left by anyone along the route. I have looked hard and I never see any trash. They take a lot of pride in their countries. Have you ever been to a concert and see how women trash restrooms? How hard is it to put your used paper towel in a trash bin? It is shameful and I feel bad for the clean up crews. Dog poop is a big pet peeve of mine too. The thing is the few of us that clean up after others don't teach them anything. They will continue to be a slob because they know someone else will eventually clean the mess up. It is a sad state, but I know I did my part and accept the good karma.

J said...

Jacquie - I do the same thing in Bucktown. There are a couple of us in the neighborhood who pick up trash and I'm the trash lady for my condo building. I always wonder if people notice and if they do, do they wonder who cleans up after them?

Janet

KateKwiltz said...

I'm convinced the common good doesn't exist any more! I've shoveled 120' of 6-foot wide sidewalk, 40' of alley and our driveway more times this winter than I care to count. One Sunday morning, a fellow (young, healthy) building resident walked past me and tell me he had to go to the gym for a workout instead of helping me get rid of 8" of snow! I wash garbage stains on carpet, clean up dog poop left on my lawn by people who don't even live here, pick garbage out of the bushes and throw out everybody else's junk mail on a regular basis. Seems all these young 'uns I live with think their responsibility ends at the door of their apartment. It makes me feel like an old bitchy lady and is making me hate my neighbors -- and their mothers for not not raising them better.
So I'm feeling your pain. But you knew that. :)

Sandra W said...

I thought you lived in a high rise condo...

Sandra W said...

BTW--yes, it was a rant.
I don't need this in my life.
Haooy to read about quilting and other creative things--but nix to this kind of rant.

SusieDW said...

If some people were ants or honey bees they'd never survive in the colony. Everyone needs to pull their weight. We were talking about Japan. When I've traveled to Tokyo a few times I was struck with how everyone pitches in. Early in the morning the shopkeepers and residents wash down, brush, scrape their entrances and sidewalks CLEAN. People crammed into a city like Tokyo have no tolerance for sloths. It all begins with personal pride and respect for yourself, each other and humanity. When I moved from San Francisco to Phoenix I was struck with how clean everything was. But, we do have our failings.

jacquie said...

Sandra,
Used to live in a mid-rise apartment building and am now in a 3 unit condo. On my blog I write what moves me and make and share what moves me. You are free to read what pleases you.

Sarah said...

Living in an apartment complex I can totally understand where you are coming from. Maybe it is just something about winter, makes taking the extra steps too hard for some people. Hopefully spring will bring a "spring clean" mindset to your neighborhood!

Kelly said...

I agree with Dee- demise of this generation- and as for Sandra. I can see her as part of the problem.
Thank you for taking the time to pick up. We live in a rural area- and I still have to pick up trash on a daily basis.

Mego said...

I so TOTALLY love this. I live in a city that actually tries to help one another but periodically...there are the 'ones'. In the fall, the city asked my neighbors to cut back their hedge because people coming up the street couldn't see around the corner. IF they did that, the city would pick up the clippings. They did, the city didn't. I started helping them pick it up and putting it in my winter empty yard waste can every week. Neighbors would see me doing it and stop to tell, 8 me how 'mad' they were that the clippings (a ton of them) were there. I told them the story and asked them to help pick them up every week so we could get the street clean. They were INCENSED. I just stared them down but never, not once, did they help. TODAY, 8 weeks later, the last pickup went out. One neighbor came out to tell me that it was about time. I had held my tongue all winter but today I told him how much FASTER it would have been if he pretended he lived in a community and had HELPED. He just glared.

Jodie said...

Wheel in the neighbours bins for them. Pick up the junk mail that blew down the street. All the small things make it feel like we are in this together. I would love to live in your neighbourhood. We would be the nicest crazy do-gooder vigilantes they had ever seen. ( vigilantes in a good way of course)

Heather said...

I hope your good acts will inspire your neighbors. We are working hard here in our Boston suburb too! We call our 4 year old "safety ranger" because he is so careful and cautious. However, the one time he scared the life out of me and ran off was in a parking lot to try and pick up some litter. Needless to say he got a stern talking to about the running off, but I love that he is on liter patrol :)

mycreativeheart said...

That was such a lovely way to let go of your frustration...I would have had many bleeps if I was feeling so frustrated. I often feel the way you do, I live in the country for some of the reasons you noted, I love the city, but just to visit...the greater good is diminished. I hope we can get it back. I'm starting with me, thanx for the reminder.

Nini~

jacquie said...

love that nini, "i'm starting with me"...way to go!

Sew Grammo said...

Amen! This me, me, me, society isn't doing anyone any good.

Hooray for you for going the extra mile.

BTW, dog logs aren't like cow manure, they don't fertilize anything and shouldn't be washed into the sewer systems to pollute our water.

Colleen said...

Thanks! I so agree. I live in NC originally from PA. Down here we get a few inches at best. Our big snow storm or 5-8 paralyzed people. They complained for days about snow blocking their driveways and sidewalks. And snow melts here starting the day it falls. People are so lazy. I call it the tv syndrome. They watch but are not engaged in the life around them. I see it with my students too.

Barbara said...

Amen!

FlourishingPalms said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
craftnook said...

Are the homes in your neighborhood privately owned? I live in Manhattan (NYC) and it is a BIG ticket not to shovel the walk completely which is why we have so much salt damage to our shoes. Shoveling and salting are crazy out here. Granted we are a walking town... Also my understanding is that if someone is injured b/c you did not shovel, you are fairly liable. Chicago sounds much more every man for himself but again, if it's all private owners, perhaps that's why it happens more? Nothing in my neighborhood is single-owner owned. As soon as you have permanent staff (supers, etc.) the stuff gets done pretty quickly otherwise why pay them?

Kathy B. said...

I think you are a pretty amazing neighbor. Keep up the good work in that Windy City!

apiecefullife said...

Thanks for this post. I think it's hilarious that you could put "dibs" on a parking space. That would cause a riot here.
How could we start a campaign to clean up, pick up, be nice?