Hope in the Grass

Courtesy of PhotoBucket.

Everyone in Detroit seems to be mowing someone else’s lawn.

I spent a half day this summer at Sears (long story, bad computer system, great customer service) and so I had plenty of time to talk to everyone else who came into the waiting room. On the hottest day in July, all of them were there for lawnmowers.

A tiny, wiry woman in overalls told me she needed her lawnmower to mow lawns for all of her elderly neighbors. “I need a sturdy one,” she confided. “Some weeks I mow thirty lawns.” Her repaired mower arrived, and she gave her seat to an elegant looking gentleman. He mopped his forehead with a cloth handkerchief, and told me about the mowing the lawn behind his own, plus the yard of the neighbor who abandoned his house and moved away. “I can’t blame her,” he said, “but I don’t want to block to look bad, either.” He also does the yards of two elderly neighbors. His brand new mower arrived, and the waiting room was quiet until two men arrived. As they talked to each other, I overheard that they mow the city park on their block, now that the city of Detroit has run out of resources. A neighborhood group mows other parks. A co-worker mows the lawn next to his house, keeping up appearances so no one will know the house is abandoned.

One lawn at a time, people are struggling to take care of the city.

Detroit is full of people keeping chaos at bay, one lawn at a time. Every news story about Detroit is about the vacant lots and empty houses, about crime and vandalism. Gunshots get the air time, but the unseen Detroit is the sound of lawnmowers, and determination.