Every morning I get up at about 6 or 6:30 (unless I am still up from getting water) and sweep the sidewalk in front of the Casa Misionera. If I wait much later than this, the wind picks up, and blows the dust I'm sweeping all over me and anyone else who happens to be walking down the street at the time. It is a great ritual – it gives me a bit of structure to my days, allows me to focus my energy on making a welcoming path for good things to come to the house, and allows me to participate in my neighbors' morning rituals. Men, women and children come to the pulperia next door to buy things to start their day; some head off to work on foot, bicycle, or the occasional car; sometimes someone is washing a car, or tuning one up to make it through the day – there is a 30 year-old red Datsun called “Rapidito” that seems to need daily tuning to do its job, which seems to be taking people up the hill from the bus stop a half-mile away. I get to say “Buenas dias” to everyone as they pass, and it doesn't take long for looks of surprise to turn to smiles – one small baby insists on waving to me the entire time he's passing in his grandmother's arms.
I have three practical goals as I commence sweeping my steps and sidewalk: to sweep up and return any stray rocks to the garden, to remove a layer of the fine dust (“polvo”) that settles on everything, and to pick up the trash left there over night. The trash is mostly wrappers from chips and candy, with the occasional cigarette butt or soda bottle - a friend once pointed out that most trash littering the environment comes from things that aren't so good for our bodies, either. Apparently, Gladys had tried keeping a trashcan in front of her store to help minimize the litter, but someone decided they needed the bin more than the community did, and took it.
One particular day, as I was out sweeping, I was joined by several others doing similar sweeping. It was garbage day, and people were scooping trash into their trash bags in anticipation of the day's collection. I noticed a neighbor across the street sweeping the cobbled street, as well as his sidewalk, and was reminded of a thought that had been gently nagging at me since I began my practice of sweeping errant dust, pebbles, and lollipop sticks into the gutter. At home in San Francisco, we have street cleaning day twice a month, where a big truck comes down the street with rotating brushes that sweep the gutters pretty cleanly out of the gutter and into the back of the truck. This makes the gutter a reasonable place to sweep leaves, trash, or anything else you want off of the sidewalk. As I continued this practice in Managua, I wondered “who, if anyone, would clean out the gutter?”
|Flor de mi jardin|
Unlike on my neighbor's side of the street, my gutter was wet with running water, making a slush of mud, pebbles, and trash. I decided to go ahead and let my outdoor broom and only dustpan get muddy, and sweep up the gutter. I filled the trash-bag with about ten pounds of the slush.
As I surveyed my thoroughly clean garden, steps, sidewalk, and street, I filled with a bit of pride, and was able to visualize the whole street clean of muck, trash and leaves. I thought of how nice it would be to live on a street like that, anywhere. More important, I thought about how my neighbor, with his own simple act of caring for the streets, which we all use, and all contribute to dirtying, inspired me to do the same.
This is how I most like to be influenced, and how I hope to influence others, by simply doing what I feel is right in caring for myself, my friends and family, my community, and the world.