by C. Neale-Clark —
While walking around the hood on East Cordova last week to my great surprise and wonderment I found a man bent over with a huge sign on his back cleaning the sidewalk in front of a local Restaurant on Cordova.
Now, this is not just any man, but Todd, according to the large sign on his back…the sign says everything. The bike, it too has a story – Todd has assembled a bike, with several baskets, you can see various tools to clean between the cracks, scissors to cut things down, brooms, and an assortment of gadgetry to make his job easier. Around his neck a long cylinder where people can put their donations.
So why surprised? How often do you find someone carrying a sign on their back cleaning a sidewalk? And when I say cleaning the sidewalk…I do not just mean sweeping it…. he was cleaning out the cracks of all the dirt, junk and returning the sidewalk to look like the day it was laid there.
Wonderment? Well, there just had to be a story behind this. So, what does a curious old man do? ASK!!!!!
Todd is very welcoming, willing to stop his work, and told me a bit of his journey. How he has come to this bike, sign, and him cleaning the sidewalk today. His story is one of drugs, jail, poverty, and living the streets like so many in the DTES. He shared, that he finally realized he was sick of that life and that it did not have to be that way if he wanted. He decided to change his life. To improve his lot. To start feeling good about himself and all that is around him.
I asked if he approached businesses about cleaning their sidewalks. He said, “no”, he just does it, and if they see fit, hopefully, will come out and pay him something”. He told me that it is often, strangers wandering by who pay him. Other times, it is a “thank you” as they walk by. He feels rewarded by no matter what.
Todd told me that it “feels good doing this”, and to start to be organized enough to seek out “contracts” would be something he might do down the road. Right now, he is happy with the outcome. He has risen above his welfare state of being, feels good about what he does, and what he is doing for the community.
You can tell by the smile on Todd’s face that he feels great about believing in himself enough to see there was a solution to his situation. A little work, ingenuity, thinking out of the box, persistence and away we go. He spoke of a lady friend who has followed a similar path and who did not like herself or felt there was any promise. She has followed his example and now is on a path of growing and self-healing.
Todd shared his philosophy of life which is: “where there is negative, then the only way to change it is to find the positive and then the negative becomes positive”.
Now, this is taking the bull by the horns, and doing something that is good for him and the community. THAT IS CARING! Todd has not given into the negative, but make a choice to make life better for himself….and the DTES. We can all do that….and perhaps as this is the New Years and the traditional time for resolutions perhaps we can use Todd’s example as fodder for something we can do to add good for ourselves and community.
Happy New Year to all and may it be kind, gentle, full of hope and positiveness throughout.