Sunday, February 27, 2011

Strip the Streets

After being disappointed in We Day, it was a delight to participate in Strip the Streets this weekend.  A couple hundred students from 14 schools got together to raise awareness and some funds for several groups that help local homelessness.  (I think it's okay to put this photo here since its from The Record.)

There were excellent speakers, a meal at the legion, then a night outside.  I like that the schools were mixed together to talk about different issues.  It's an event that actually develops community along with awareness.  But what had the most impact was breakfast the next morning.

We went to First United Church where many people without homes spent the night sleeping in the basement.  Students shared porridge and toast with people who live like this every day.  Many of the students were moved to tears.

As I stood on the sidewalk, away from the rest, getting a panorama shot of people taking down tents in the morning, someone in a car slowed down to yell, "You guys are dressed too well to be homeless!!"   I didn't share that with the others, and it completely missed the point anyway.  The event raised money, collected tons of toiletries and other essentials, and completely transformed the participants.  The students weren't pretending to be without homes; they were getting a small taste of what it must be like for many people, including about 1,000 youth in the region, to have to go without something we take for granted.  It was an eye-opener, and I found it to be profoundly effective.

ETA - A student today commented on the evening.  She thought the worst part would be suffering through a cold night, but what was far worse was a total lack of privacy 24/7.  It's degrading to not be able to get yourself presentable in the morning without seeing other people in the mall washroom.  We have a need for private space that can't be helped with temporary group sleeping areas.

My weekend was topped off with an excellent drama presentation last night - excellent except for the silly bandz that we've decided to give away at every event.  My 6-year-old was thrilled.  Me?  Not so much.  They're made of a silicone rubber polymer which in itself isn't particularly toxic or problematic.  Careful of choking if you try to eat them, or cutting off your circulation if you wear them.  But it's trendy crap that's destined for the landfill where they won't decompose.  They might, however, photodegrade so in a few years we can breathe in the particles and decrease our fertility.

This is where environmentalists are total downers, but, I think, necessarily so.  I was excited to see the play without the toys that came with the ticket.  It doesn't make our school suddenly cooler to jump on a marketing trend.  It just makes more garbage to clean up at the end of the night.  

The weekend as a whole reminded me of a line in the film No Impact Man.  Colin's talking to an old hippie gardener who tells him:  "It's always 50/50.  Some thing get better and some things get worse.  It'll always be like that."

True that.  We just need those little bits of "better" to keep us going over the worse.

1 comment:

Scott Kemp said...

Thank you for your comments about Strip the Streets. It is through the building of community and shared experience that we really get to appreciate the struggle we have in front of us and the support we have in the fight.
The true power of the event comes when we share the experience, we share our convictions and we take it further.
Scott Kemp