Sunday, July 21, 2013

Action Changes Things

As silly as it may sound, I drove home with tears streaking through dirt and sweat and a ridiculous grin plastered on my face, quite unable to contain the sense of…  Well, I don’t know how to describe it.  I felt awesome.  And hot, tired, sticky and filthy to boot.  But nothing could quell the pride, the satisfaction, the happiness that enveloped me.

I moved to Houston 34 years ago.  Then spent the next 32 years hating being here and wishing I could be anywhere else.  It was an extreme greener grass case.  And yet, I never did anything about it.  Except complain.  And wish.  And complain some more. 

Then two years ago, two friends from high school came to visit me.  We hadn’t seen each other in over 25 years, but those missing years melted away the moment they arrived and our all too brief reunion became a very special memory that I will treasure always.

The obligatory tour of the town loomed over me like a pall of shame.  What was I supposed to show them?  How was I going to present this backwater town in any kind of light that didn’t require a purple-hued bulb and mind-altering drugs to make it appealing?  But off we went, me wearing the tour guide cap, them wearing the polite smiles.

As we drove around and I pointed out the various “features” it struck me that maybe this place wasn’t so bad after all.  It definitely needed some TLC, but under the red-neckness there was a certain charm about it.  There was potential.  There was…

An epiphany! 

Getting her done!  

This town is awesome.

Since then I’ve had a strong urge to become more involved in my community.  I just didn’t really know how. 
I attend community meetings and I’m the Chair of the H.O.P.E. Society.  I pick up garbage when I’m out walking.  And I have some over-the-moon dreams for this town.

A few months ago, the ACT Committee was formed in town.  ACT stands for Action Changes Things.  I did not join this committee, nor was I even invited to, but I’ve been keeping a close eye on them.  They have some good ideas.

Last week I saw a post on Facebook asking for volunteers to meet at a vacant lot and clean it up.  I was unable to go due to another meeting that I had to be at, but I thought it was a fantastic idea.  And the results were quite wonderful.  In about an hour, this handful of Houstonites gave this shabby, over-grown and neglected corner lot a ton of curb appeal.  It looks like a little park now.  All that’s missing are the benches and swing set! 

The results of the first lot clean-up.
Children pitched in to transform an over-
grown vacant lot
When they posted that they were meeting again last Thursday, I abandoned my own work-in-progress-yard and went over to help out.  I donned my grubby work clothes and a pair of gloves, grabbed my rake and set to forming enormous piles of mown grass, working behind a couple of enthusiastic weed-wacker wielders.  There were kids of all ages with trash bags picking up garbage.  People were mowing and trimming and weeding and loading trucks with the refuse.  Nearly 40 people were there, working, laughing, sweating, laughing and making a difference.  It was truly amazing.  I couldn’t keep the smile off my face!

The cheerful volunteers that came out to help clean up
the old Husky lot on Thursday.

By the time I left, the old Husky lot had been transformed.  Truckloads of grass had been hauled away.  A utility trailer was full of tree branches.  There were stacks of filled garbage bags waiting to be taken to the dump.  Did I say how amazing it all was?

Houston may not be the most exciting place on earth, but it sure is one of the best places to live.  The air is clean.  It’s surrounded by beautiful scenery.  There are fabulous lakes and hiking trails to enjoy.  And it has the best little library – ever! 

But now there is a bit more gloss on it as well.  The shine of community spirit, fuelled by genuinely caring people like Shane, Natasha, Michalle, Paul, Cam, Melanie, Leanne,  Jackie, Jennifer and a host of others who’s action are changing things, is glowing brightly. 

Weeding the garden beds

Raking grass and picking up trash

I’m proud to be a member of this community.  It’s heartwarming to see – not just hear – about opportunities like this that make a real difference.