As a child growing up, like all others in my peer group, I would be very conscious of my appearance. The way I dressed, (within budgetary restraints of course), the way I looked after myself and so on. As kids normally are, they can be your best of friends or your worst of enemies.
So imagine then the day you wake up and you see a huge wart growing on your pointer finger of your right hand. Or even worse, a great huge pimple on your face. In your own eyes it’s about the same size as Fortress Mountain, but in reality it is just developing, and you do your best to hide it from everyone’s view. In your youthful mind, all your classmates are pointing at your wart or pimple and snickering, so in defence, you pick away at it in order to remove it, only to have it grow worse. Like all other skin defects, it takes its time to go away.
As I was reflecting on and working with a segment of society that some feel is like a blemish on our downtown, this particular analogy that I just wrote came to mind; the parallels being incredibly similar.
Anytime we have a negative in our lives, we want to deal with it; hide it or eliminate it, just as long as it disappears and no longer burdens us.
I believe every person recognizes this blemish on our society; we don’t like it and it feels uncomfortable to the point that one way or another we have to deal with it.
At this point, we have to determine our approach to dealing with the blemish that is just totally ruining our lives; at least we think it is. On one side of the coin, we can make an aggressive attack on the problem and force it out of existence, but this usually results in making the blemish worse or causing it to grow larger.
On the other hand, we can cover it with some nice cosmetics, but that also has its problems. It can become infected by the very method we use to hide it.
Growing up, I’ve had both. One time I had a rather large pimple right beside my nose. It was uuugly! My first instinct was to squeeze it and wipe away the residue, but I was fortunate in that my sister-in-law, being a nurse, saw the pimple and warned me against my preferred method saying I could make it spread. Instead, she got some alcohol and with a tissue started rubbing away the worst of the giant blemish. She told me how to dab, not wipe at it several times during the next while and it would soon disappear. I took her advice and in two days, that Fortress Mountain disappeared off my face.
Somehow, in all of this reflecting and remembering, I wonder if the same type of approach could apply to the ‘blemish’ we feel we have in the street population downtown.
We already know that pressure tactics, even though they have the appearance of working, don’t. In the long run, we will find not only do we have the blemish we were attacking, it has continued to grow in spite of our efforts.
Every city in North America has exactly the same scenario, and here in Red Deer I find that our council seems to be approaching the problem as if we were the only ones with a wart or a pimple on our face. So it leads me to a point of decision. Do I go status quo or do I look for new faces that recognize it for what it is and learn from others how to compassionately and effectively deal with this ‘blemish’ on our city core?
Chris Salomons is the kitchen co-ordinator of Potter’s Hands in Red Deer.