Friday, May 4, 2012

Neighborhoods and Gravel Roads

This afternoon we drove through gravel streets in Muskegon that not too long ago had been paved. With no city funds to fix the roads they deteriorated to axel destroying strips of potholes. Eventually the city of Muskegon Heights just dumped gravel over the streets.

Entire city blocks and neighborhoods near the center of town, road after road after road has been transformed from paved to gravel. Along the neighborhoods streets, boarded up homes and ragged blue tarps on the rooftops. Or moss. Or broken windows.

Near the housing projects.

My father recounted to me living in similar homes growing up. Wide tracts of homes once built to house soldiers returning from the war, then soon after used as places to herd impoverished families. The old homes, not quite as fancy as the Levittown homes, have since been sliced apart from one another and placed on the outskirts of town in their own disjointed neighborhoods of dilapidated homes built from the remnants of dilapidated homes.

As we drove through town a man whose yard was entirely dug up for a vegetable garden - a sensible decision in my opinion - had looked woozy and fell to the ground. Two other men across the street ran to him and helped him up. Broken glass windows and duct tape and card board, structural elements to keep the cold at bay just as long as it can.

People talk of a need for fundamental systemic change in this country. Fundamental systemic change to improve the situation of Americans.

I agree with that.

But what until then?

What do we do UNTIL then?  It's been a half century since my father grew up in the 1950s equivalent of housing projects.

How long EXACTLY do we wait for this fundamental systemic change that will solve everything?  While folks are battling the Big Fight about Big Ideas for the Big Future over there....what do we do down here?

I'm less interested in taking part in a battle royale about fundamental systemic change that may, might, somehow, some way come along and improve these chronically impoverished areas and communities that need something better RIGHT NOW.

I'm more interested in knowing what can happen TODAY? What can be done THIS WEEK? This MONTH? How can a community help a disadvantaged young man IN HIS LIFETIME while we wait for this grand systemic National change to take place? This HUGE systemic national change that's going to improve everybody's life Some Day. It's going to be great. I believe it will.

But what until then? How do we, down here, fix things Until That Day?

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