-by Hannah Brogan
DISCLAIMER: I had no idea what to write about for my first post, but FeiFei suggested I title it “a trashcan who believes” and now I’ve written the entire post around that concept. If you want to read about what we’ve actually been doing so far, I recommend reading someone else’s post.
Throughout Baltimore there are trash cans bearing the slogan “believe” I’ve been curious about this phenomenon since doing sbup and finally looked up an explanation. In 2002, the city government launched the “Believe Campaign.” The idea was to encourage citizens to believe in Baltimore’s future, and become more involved with initiatives to improve the community. They also hoped to encourage drug addicts to seek treatment, thereby lowering crime rates in the city. Obviously many of the same issues the city faced in 2002 are still relevant now. But the trash cans remain as a reminder to keep a positive attitude in the face of injustice.
The trash cans struck me because the idea of existing as a trash can that believes in a better future is #relatablecontent to me.
[Ok this is where it gets weird but bare with me I have a point… kind of]
Aren’t we all trash cans who believe?
The world is very big and a trash can is small and full of trash. It [the trash can] looks around and sees trash littering the streets of the city. It knows it cannot possibly pick up all the cities trash (due to its limited size and lack of hands), yet it bravely continues to bear the slogan “believe.” In spite of evidence to the contrary, the trash can believes in Baltimore’s future.
Throughout the first few days of the program, we spent a lot of time exploring the neighborhood, talking to residents, and learning about all the problems that affect the area. We also spent time studying scripture. We studied The Fall in Genesis, which explores the sinful (trashful?) nature of human beings (trash cans). I have often found myself asking the question “How can a lowly trash can (such as myself) help to alleviate the many systemic injustices that plague Baltimore and cities like it? How can one little trash can make an impact?”
The truth is, the day to day choices of an average Baltimore trashcan are not likely to greatly impact anything. As it says in Ecclesiastes, “Everything is meaningless [trash].” The problems in Baltimore are much bigger than us. From our vantage point within the system, it is difficult to see a clear way out. We can only treat the symptoms caused by an epidemic of deeply rooted systemic injustice.
But that sobering fact doesn’t stop us little trash cans from believing. We believe that God loves us in spite of our high trash content. We believe we can make a difference through the choices we make.
I have made the choice to be in Baltimore working at a summer camp. In doing this, I won’t be fighting the systemic issues that affect Baltimore. I won’t undo slavery or Jim Crow. I won’t protect the residents of gentrified neighborhoods. I won’t repair the crumbling infrastructure. The same problems I learned about when I first came will remain unsolved when I leave 5 weeks from now. But if God in his vastness finds a way to love his trash cans, so too can I find meaning in my choice to be here. By working here, I allow the camp to run and provide kids with a safe place to be during the summer. I offer kids the chance to learn new skills. I can act as a role model. In a small, but not insignificant way, I can make this one neighborhood a little bit better.
Thus, I am entering the start of my work with Joyful Journey Day Camp with the mindset of a trashcan who believes.
-by Hannah Brogan