The other day I was driving along on my way to lunch when I saw something peculiar rolling – skipping? – hopping? – across the road. What I thought was a rock or a leaf was actually a tiny baby bunny making it’s way across the road. Not too far behind was its little sibling, hopping his little heart out. I still don’t know how I managed to not hit either one, but there was definitely an intense game of Frogger going on between my wheels. I looked into my rear view mirror, slightly shaken, wondering what the end result of this little trek would be. I watched nervously as other cars swerved around the tiny balls of fur as I started to picture their sure demise. I couldn’t keep going. I had to turn around. I worried about getting back there and finding out I was too late, but leaving them behind was not an option.
Although there was a decent amount of traffic, I was able to turn around less than a hundred yards away. From there I could still see the bunnies and all the close calls they were having. One suddenly fell on its side, still trying to hop as fast as its little legs could take him. The poor thing looked like a wind up doll that had been tipped over. I thought he had been hurt, but fortunately he had just been trying to get across so hard that he fell over. The small duo made it over to the other side of the street (the side I was now on) but they couldn’t make it up the curb. I was able to pull over in a drive just a few feet away from them and jumped out of the car to help. After traffic cleared I was able to scoop them up and carry them further away from the road. The poor little things were exhausted but finally safe.
Now what does this have to do with Detroit? Every day we make decisions, big and small, that have an impact on those around us. Even though the results may be inconsequential to us, they could make a huge difference to the city and people around you. Will the United Bunnies Society hoist me up on their bunny float and congratulate me for this? No. Although I very much now want to start the UBS, I don’t think my bunnies have the organizational skills to help me. Will it ensure that these little creatures have a happy ever after ending? I know that these bunnies may have found their way back to the road later that day. They may have even ended up in even worse predicaments. What I did was help however I could at that moment in time. And this is what Detroit needs.
Detroit does not need to hear excuses. It does not need to see your pity. What it needs is people to come together and work, even in small ways, to make it a better city. Whether it is picking up that trash on the sidewalk or not dropping it in the first place, everyone has a part to play in this. There are already a lot of people doing good things for the city, but they need your help. Whether you join a group that is already helping or just do your small deeds, it will make a difference. Below are highlights of three groups that go out of there way to do what they can.
1. The Mower Gang
The neighborhood that my husband and I live in lost our developer and builder a while back. Since then it has been a struggle just to get the undeveloped lots and common areas mowed, though it’s been extremely easy to complain about it. It’s amazing the amount that people can complain about their small problems – myself included. The subdivision is not huge, but finding people to give time or resources towards cleaning things up is difficult. Based on this experience I would think all hope was lost for cities and neighborhoods with fewer people and finances. But in Detroit there’s a group of people that do not just mow their own yards or their own neighborhood, they mow Detroit parks. They are the Mower Gang (http://www.mowergang.com/). These people have decided to take it upon themselves to mow the parks of Detroit so that kids have a place to play. They do what the rest of us only complain about and they have fun while doing it.
2. Neighborhood Volunteers
Another example is this news story of a neighborhood cleaning up an abandoned police station. They’re hoping it will help cut down on blight and crime while also encouraging the city to re-open the station. This is a great example of what people are doing every day. They are doing the best with what they have to make the city better for themselves. They are not waiting for the city or some group to sweep in an save the day. Not all of these amazing people get news coverage, and many that do are still not the top headlines, but they should be.
3. Urban Farming and Gardening
What a lot of people don’t realize about the urban farming in Detroit movement is that it has been going on for several years. For example, the Earthworks Urban Garden, which was started in 1997 as a part of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. They provide food for the soup kitchen and have a partnership with Gleaner’s Food Bank that owns some urban farm space as well. The Georgia Street Community Collective started as one man cleaning a few lots of litter and decay. It has grown into an organization that works to provide food, training, safety and community to the area. The number of urban farms and community gardens is growing due to recent exposure, but it is something that has been around in one form or another for a while.
Please don’t think these are the only groups of people doing things to make Detroit a better place. They are all around. Some get a little publicity, others don’t. Some are tied to churches, neighborhoods, groups and organizations. And you can be a part of them or just work as an individual. If you don’t want to save Detroit, then save your own neighborhood. Help your neighbors, friends and local businesses. Show that you care and do what you can to make your home the kind of place you want to live.