Sometimes resistance comes from the most unlikely places

Originally Posted – July 18, 2011 @ 8:06 PM

When we first moved onto Whitney Avenue we meet alot of resistance from the locals…  This was their neighborhood and we were the new comers trying to clean up the street…  As far as they were concerned I was weird because of all of the gardening I was doing…  They couldn’t understand why anyone would want to clean up a mess that they did not create…  In the first week we were here we bought a football for some of the neighborhood kids hoping to settle some of the tension we were experiencing…  That night the kids father was having a party and had a bit too much to drink…  The kids were playing out in the street and I walked out to throw the ball around with them…  There father was on the porch with a bunch of his friends and saw me playing with them…  As soon as I touched one of his kids he was in my face and really pissed off…  He basically kept saying “I am extremely protective of my kids and I don’t know you, leave them alone” I can’t blame him but he could of handled it without threatening me or getting up in face…  I have to admit that I was shaking scareds he is bigger than me but I was able to keep my cool…  I said sorry and tried to shake his hand and proceeded to walk away from him…  I was mad for a few moments but once I calmed down I decided the way to handle this was to lead by example and kill him with kindness…  For the next few days anytime I saw him I waived and said hello…  His kids avoided me like the plague but I knew I couldn’t take it personally after all I was a new person on the street playing with his 6 and 8 year olds…  After a few days of this the father approached me in the street and said he was sorry for the other night and that I could spend time with his kids…  Alcohol was a big influence in this incident and I never took it personally… We have been friends with him and his family ever since…

Our landlord told us early on that the only way we could have a garden on this street without the kids destroying it was to befriend and include them…  I spent the entire first summer becoming friends with all of the area kids…  This brings me to another incident that occurred early on that was another big hurdle to overcome…  In the first couple of weeks a neighbor on the street noticed I was spending alot of times with the very same kids that have driven them crazy for years now…  I think the fact that I would talk to or try to help them out was just too much for them…  They proceeded to call my landlord and tell her that I was spending a little to much time playing with the neighborhood children…  They said that if they were my landlord they would kick me out immediately and they would never rent to someone like me…  I can’t confirm this but I think she went as far as to tell some of the neighbors and I had a real hard time convincing people I was not a freak…

The purpose of that rant is that this has not been an easy ride for us…  The second rant came from the last person on the street I would of thought would say that…  One of my favorite kids on the street would call me a “punk ass bitch” everytime he saw me…  Finally one day I decided the way I should talk to them is the way they talk to me…  So I called him a punk ass bitch the next time I saw him…  He immediately ran home and told his family and all of there friends I was swearing at him and called him a punk ass bitch…  The next time I saw his grandma she layed into me for 10 minutes and I just stood their and took it…  I waited a week and one day when she was staring me down from her front porch I ran up their and gave her a handpicked bouquet of big blue hydrangea blooms…  She was besides herself and didn’t say a thing…  Now we are great friends and speak on a daily basis…  The boy that would swear at me is Brandon who is now my head farm hand…  I truelly love this family and consider brandon like a little brother…  This took 6 months to accomplish and I have to look past alot of stuff but I believe this friendship is more important…

Sometimes you think what you are doing is right and since you are cleaning up the neighborhood no one should have a problem with it…  This was not the case for us but by not taking things personally and being persistant any neighborhood quarrel can be overcome…  Even today over a year in, countless hours of work and basically every extra penny I can muster up I still recieve resistance…  And not from the people you would expect at all…  Their has been an annoying prejudice between the homeowners and the renters…  I should mention that i don’t own a home on Whitney Avenue I am a renter…  But we have done more work on the street than any of the home owners…  But the owners still don’t think of us as equals… It is really ridiculous given the fact that the owners are outnumbered probably 3 to 1…

Anyway I have decided that what I am doing on the street is unique and for the better of the residents…  I am not interested in filling all of the abandoned houses with people, I am doing this for the people that live on Whitney right now…  Part of what makes Whitney Avenue cool is all of the abandoned buildings… And they make for great garden space…  I just wish the homeowners would treat us like members of the community and not just people who are probably going to move away some day…  I love Wilkinsburg and the people that live here…  I never want to leave but would have to consider it if met with ridiculous amounts of resistance…  I want the homeowners to get on board with the changes that are possible…  This may sound selfish but I don’t want them to try and take over my farm or but in on what I consider to be my role…  It is really easy to show up at an already established giant garden after all the work is done and say boy gardening here would be fun any chance I can but in…  But to take a lot that is completely overgrown and trashed and convert it into a beautiful garden takes a special type of person…  I don’t like it when people want to “Have a plot” in my farm space…  I feel like if you want a garden find a vacant lot somewhere and take it over and do whatever it is that you want to it…  Leave my space alone, I have 5 neighborhood kids that help me out regularly and it all works for me…  I like our garden because if I want to weed something or move something I can do it without asking someone…

What we have on Whitney Avenue works…  It works because we make it work…  I am able to teach children and am having great results…  I just can’t figure out why anyone would want to change that but apparently that is not the case…  Anyway all I can do is just keep on doing what I am doing and not stop until I absolutely have to which is hopefully never…  When you meet resistane just keep your head held high and show no fear,,,  Stay friendly and positive and remember greener times are ahead!

 

http://transitionpgh.org/profiles/blogs/sometimes-resistance-comes

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