Living in this modern world, most of us realize we just cannot do everything. And we definitely can’t do everything all the time. I’d love to attend each art opening and musical event my town offers, but I’d never get any poems written if I did. Plus, I’d soon go bankrupt. I’d like to support my favorite causes at all the benefits they throw, but I’d be going out 365 nights a year. The laundry would rot in the washer, the cats would forget my name, and to paraphrase W. B. Yeats as sung by Joni Mitchell, “Things would fall apart: the center would not hold.”
Being a rational person who works for a living and tries to keep up with her friends, health, and creative life causes me to miss out on some amazing things, and I have mostly made peace with this. But last week our town organized a new event, and I’m sorry I didn’t participate, because it sounded like so much fun.
I hadn’t really been paying attention, but apparently our downtown has been suffering a lot of graffiti vandalism lately. Despite regular attempts to remove the tagged areas and repaint, the situation has been getting slowly worse. After some ad hoc meetings, local citizens, merchants, the city Police and Fire Departments, Chamber of Commerce, and the Public Works people cooked up a town-wide spring-cleaning effort in order to turn this trend around.
I’m so happy to live in a place where people figure out how to make our communal life better, and get together and just do it!
You probably remember the “Broken Window” theory. It states if you leave broken windows in a building unrepaired, showing an attitude of neglect, pretty soon more windows will be smashed, and then the building itself will be attacked and larger crimes take place in the area. Fixing the windows stops this cascading behavior, and people respect property and maintain a level of cleanliness and order.
So last week, 175 volunteers brought their own tools and over the course of three mornings washed Nevada City’s windows, walls, and sidewalks, primed everything in sight, and repainted curbs and historic gas lamp posts. They completely redid the facade of one business and spruced up a 10-block area within an inch of its life. Firefighters refreshed the hydrants. Police-persons painted call boxes. A local cafe owner walked around with hot coffee for the workers, and everyone seemed to have a pretty wonderful time.
Just driving through town you don’t notice a big change, though everything seems a little more vivid. It’s when you stop to look closely that you see how bright the green 10-minute parking curb is now, and the windows of the hat store. Plants in local parks were pruned. The Rotary Club cleared our creek-bed of an incredible amount of trash.
I’m so happy to live in a place where people figure out how to make our communal life better, and get together and just do it! Some of the volunteers were homeless local citizens, too, wielding squeegees and paint brushes.
A thousand thanks to all of you, and I’ll be there next time, I promise!