On Community, Pride and Safety

My morning walk with Daisy has prompted me to write out of anger, sadness and a question as to how change can be achieved. Let me paint you a picture for context. The area in which I live is primarily populated with social housing and ex-council housing. The area in itself is lovely, with plenty of green grass, and a choice of 4 woods within a 5 minute walk! The people are generally decent and friendly, and usually quite helpful. At the moment, there are a lot of building works as the housing associations work to improve flats and houses. This is great as it has greatly improved the appearance and feel of the area. But (there had to be a but!), along with this change, has come rubbish, rubbish and more rubbish.

It wasn’t until I got Daisy and took her for walks, that I really appreciated rubbish-free ground. I started noticing more and more the extent of the problem and it evoked lots of emotions. Not only does it look awful, but I was more aware that the rubbish created a safety risk to dogs, especially the ones that like to scavenge and wander!

Back to today. Daisy is very quick at spotting food on the ground, and before I knew it, she had a cooked rib bone in her mouth. Now, if it was anything other than a bone or chocolate, I wouldn’t be too worried, but I knew I couldn’t just let her gobble it up. Luckily she gave it up without too much fuss, just a couple of growls. Looking over my shoulder I saw a pile of food in the middle of the grass, like someone had just dumped the leftovers instead of using a bin. At this point, I should point out that there was a line of wheely bins right next to the pile. I rolled my eyes and carried on.

Just outside the woods, there are two rows of houses facing each other. I looked in disbelief at the amount of rubbish outside their houses, on the grass, leading into the woods. I felt angry. My thoughts were along the lines of ‘why, just why?’, ‘why can’t people be bothered to use their bins!?’, ‘my dog is at risk because of people’s apathy and laziness’. As I went into the woods and walked round, my feelings then changed to sadness. What was it that makes people treat their homes and area like that? Why is there no pride? I was trying to put myself in their shoes and think about how they might see things. I’m afraid I didn’t come up with much.

I’m sure there are many factors that contribute to littering and lack of pride in homes and community. I don’t pretend to know or understand what goes on in people’s homes or minds. I could stay angry at the individual people for littering the ground and areas in which I walk my dog. While anger is important in fuelling motivation, I feel there is something else going on at a wider level. Where did community go? What would it take to give people a sense of pride and concern about their community and homes? I could go and pick up all the litter, the santa signs, the food, the polystyrene, the deflated footballs. But that wouldn’t help anyone. People need to be empowered and motivated. Community needs to become important again.

I will leave you with your thoughts and feelings, and I will continue to ponder the issue. Whether I come up with anything remains to be seen. Meanwhile, you can make small differences in your area, make sure you throw your rubbish in the bin, don’t be too proud to pick up litter you see on your walks, and if you’re that way inclined, challenge people when you see them littering. If you want to go even further, why not start a community project, or gather a few friends and residents to get litter picking in your area, maybe ask people why they think littering happens and what they think would help.

Judging others is part of the human condition, we can’t help it. Use it to help, not condemn and who knows, change may happen.

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