Friday, May 25, 2012

Boomwhackers and Precious Vests

From Mary

Photo: Association libérale fédérale de Westmount--Ville-Marie
The Helping Hand Clean-up Day is on its third year I think -- organized through the Jewish Christian Dialogue Group that Catherine Jarvis participates in. Everyone was to meet at a downtown park, get into groups, then fan out the clean the neighbourhood around the park. I stayed at the Park with Hebe, Rhiannon, and Naomi (still on crutches).

But it was not a playground park, so had to keep those three occupied. We “washed” the trees by giving the two little girls spray bottles we had brought to keep us cool. Naomi walked around the park finding pieces of glass for Cathy to pick up. I tried picking up cigarette butts but got in trouble from Cathy when she saw me on my hands and knees picking them up. 

Photo: Association libérale fédérale de Westmount--Ville-Marie
Later I took the kids 3 blocks away to playground outside the nearby Children’s Hospital. Close to lunch we headed back to the park for the re-grouping of everyone for picnic lunches, speeches and a participatory percussion activity with Leo. Someone had arranged a donation of a couple of crates of fruit to be shared.

There were over a dozen park denizens there that day, happy to consume free goods. They all registered and got their free t-shirts and asked if there would be food. They were told if they would help with the clean-up they could have food afterwards. They all wore their shirts and ate the free fruit and helped to the extent they were able.

Photo: Association libérale fédérale de Westmount--Ville-Marie
There were over 120 people there participating, and Cathy had brought a box of brightly coloured “Mormon Helping Hands” vests to identify team leaders for each group that went out for the clean-up. After people had eaten, there were some speeches.

I must admit I was a bit wary of the personal possessions left behind at the tables when people went to listen. I stayed at the back watching my own things (snacks for the kids) and Leo’s percussion instruments. Quite a few park denizens were floating close the tables “checking things out.” I eventually went back to the tables and stood by my things.

Photo: Association libérale fédérale de Westmount--Ville-Marie
That did not stop the floaters. At one point, someone opened the box that the vests had been put back in.

 He already had the free t-shirt, but when he went to take a vest, I felt compelled to tell him we needed to keep them.

“OK” he said, and walked to the next table to look in the box that had the gardening gloves. Why did I feel compelled to stop the fellow from taking with the vest? Think of how much free advertising it would have meant for the church.

Photo: Association libérale fédérale de Westmount--Ville-Marie
I didn’t intervene when a lady stole someone’s lunch sandwich. This is how that happened. Not long after the attempt on the vest, another floater came to by check out someone’s bag lunch that had been laid out but not yet consumed. She grabbed the sandwich bag in a flash and was eating the sandwich and walking away before I could blink my eyes. I didn’t try to stop her. When the owner came back to his table and was looking confused, I told him someone had stolen his sandwich and that I thought she probably needed it more. He laughed and said she would probably be disappointed since it was just bread with mustard – the he held up the baggie of smoked meat he had planned to put inside it.

A very boisterous lady had been participating in all the music and dancing all day. When the speeches began, she tried to get up the mic and speak too. Cathy was grateful to Leo who led her away from the microphone. The same woman came over to where I was. Rhiannon was playing under the table. At 15 minute intervals she kept telling me and Naomi, “Keep an eye on your baby.” She must have said it 15 times. I thanked her and told her I would. Before she walked away she said “don’t let her get nabbed.”

It made me sad to think that she had possibly had kids of her own who were taken away from her. Naomi was confused about why she had said that so many times, so it opened a door for us to talk a little bit about alcoholism combined with homelessness and the sadness associated with that life.

The speeches ended and Leo started his percussion event – boomwhackers – plastic tubes of different length that you hit against your leg and they make different notes. Then you can get people playing fun, melodic rhythms. Of course, our boisterous friend went over to participate. Leo let her take two boomwhackers but told her he needed them back at the end. A few minutes later Leo shouted to me that there were boomwhackers to be retrieved. Sure enough, our friend was walking back to her group of friends with the boomwhackers. So I walked across the park following her to retrieve them. She didn’t see me following, but as soon as her friends saw me one of them yelled, “Run, she’s coming to get you.”

I had this ridiculous image flash through my mind of me, 7 months pregnant chasing a inebriated lady across the park to get two plastic tubes. Luckily, she did not run. She just turned around and when I got to her and said “I need those back” she handed them right over, put her hands in the air and said “I didn’t steal them.”

I told her it was OK, I just needed them back.

Boomwhackers and Mormon Logo-ed Vests -- I am the person take caring of important material items, even if I am forbidden to pick up cigarette butts.


1 comment:

  1. Great stories Mary about helping out and still having to be on guard. Well organized Cathy! Excellent idea to contribute to the community.