Springtime in Skid Row

23 May

One of the challenges of writing about working in Skid Row is trying not to romanticize or gloss over the reality that thousands of people live daily, and at the same time try to convey that this is a place filled with human beings who are both half empty and half full, no matter what side of the desk they may sit on. (The “half-empty and half full” language comes from Everyone Leads.)

As I consider how to find balance between perpetuating harsh images of Skid Row and worrying that I might write through a rose-colored lens, I realized that there is plenty of media out there about dirty streets, crime, and need. That’s the part that most people already know. What I really want to do is add to the growing awareness that Skid Row is a community, and along with the pain and struggle here, there is also hope, art, and celebration.

Which brings me to Mr. W, the client I first wrote about a few months ago. Mr. W has been  a joy to work with, from his stalwart independence to his willingness to share his story with me. Weeks ago, Mr. W told me about some gardening that he was doing in the courtyard of the Norbo, and that I should go down and have a look. At the time, there were a few tomato and pepper seedlings, and other things sprouting that I couldn’t identify. I happen to have a great love of gardening myself, so I was extra-tickled to see Mr. W’s efforts. I asked whether he’d be alright with me showing him and his garden to the internet and he said, “Oh, I’d love that.”

So, I present to you the man known to his neighbors as “Dr. Greenthumb”:

Mr. W in the courtyard with a little pot he planted for me

He also showed me the plants that he had growing on his windowsill:

The windowsill garden. He says that one year, he had plants growing three feet into the hallway!

I tried to decline the green gift but he insisted. I took it home and a few days later, this is what it looked like:

The plant-splosion: unruly, unexpected, and utterly delightful

Expect more updates on Mr. W’s garden before the year is out! I hope that you’re as inspired by his loving efforts as I am. He’s definitely made me want to tend my own little plot with a bit more care.

Have you planted a garden this spring? What’s in it?


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