The end of a road in a small subdivision off Willow
Lansing is segregated. We don’t really mention it much but in fact there is a huge divide that splits Lansing right in half; north and south and again east and west. This divide is a river. It’s not even one river. There is the Grand River that races in from the west side of the city to the southern middle of Lansing. Here it twists around and meets with the Red Cedar River that flows in from Williamston through Okemos and East Lansing. Combined as the Grand River they flow straight north, creating a gorgeous waterway for downtown Lansing. At Old Town the river begins to slant North West and meanders out to Grand Ledge and beyond. As I make my way through neighborhoods and busy streets I am often in awe when I come to a section by the river. The few bridges stretching across the rivers are my favorite places to walk. Lansing smartly has created one of its biggest assets with The Lansing River Trail. This trail consistently follows the river. However the River Trail does not continue throughout the entire river. The reasons for this are mostly that the property is owned by someone. Many times as I walk with the river in my sights, I find sections of gorgeous homes, nestled together like quaint Northern Michigan cottage homes on the river’s edge. Much like the phrase; “all business in front and a party in the back” these homes have a pristine, though humble, look to the front. But as you walk by and take note of the back yard it becomes evident that those folks enjoy their river front property. I find most own some type of boat. There is often a relaxing place; fire pit, pool, gazebo, something that shouts out fun and relaxation. I find very few “for sale” signs in these neighborhoods as most seem pretty content right where they are. I enjoy walking in these sections, although with the isolation of the locations (mostly dead-ends) I feel a bit intrusive. I think, that’s the way they want it to be.
The view off the bridge on MLK just south of Grand River Ave.
More Photos on City Saunter’s Facebook Page
Today is Thursday and like a large majority of my Thursdays for the last 2 years I again used my lunch hour to meet up with other Lunch with a Purpose members. Today’s volunteer activity was to help clean and organize the Shared Pregnancy Women’s Center’s office. I was excited about today’s choice for two reasons. One, I hadn’t volunteered for a couple of weeks so it was a chance to get back into the swing of it. And two, this location was right at a lone section on my map I hadn’t walked yet! I love multi-tasking! LWP normally starts at noon and ends at 1pm. My son’s LCC class ends at 2pm so I knew I had plenty of time to complete all of my tasks. Arriving promptly at noon I joined another LWP member, Emily, and we both made our way through the house to the back office. The main floor is made up of small rooms and hallways. It was a tight fit but also quite comfortable. Any young person needing the services of this established counseling center would feel very at home. Emily and I were soon communicating with Saralee Howard who is the Executive Director at Shared Pregnancy Women’s Center. At the center of this back office sat a plastic laundry basket filled with clip boards. On each clip board was a hand written description of a chore to complete and a smiley face on it. Surrounding the basket of clipboards was spray bottles with disinfectant, degreasers, rags, mops, scouring scrub (Meijer brand so I can’t call it Comet) and brooms. The directions were very clear and for the next hour about 6-10 volunteers commenced their chosen chore. I like helping out these grassroots, smaller, nonprofit groups. Their determination, thankfulness and altruism are admirable. It’s also obvious that they receive a lot of support from the community when all the rooms are stacked full of donated clothes, toys, blankets and diapers. They have a newsletter that is two pages long where they thank all the groups that help them. I am always amazed at these community efforts put into place to help those in need. I also greatly enjoy being part of Lunch with a Purpose, which is today celebrating a two year anniversary. I like seeing the helping hands of one group, helping another group who helps another.
Every once in a while I get a media call about my project. In fact I’ve only had to solicit a media source once. It really gives me an opportunity to communicate my ideas, findings, plans and adventure to a population that might not be following my progress. At least that’s what I hope for! Today’s walk was a media interview. I’ve been interviewed by this young woman once before and found her very enjoyable. Emanuele is the news director of the award winning college radio station WDBM 89.9 FM. Last time we took an interview walk was for this station. Since then Emanuele has broaden my project’s scope by including it in the UPIO.com website. Today’s interview will be shown on MSU’s student television station, Focal Point.
Despite both of us graduating from Lansing Eastern High School we met up at J.W. Sexton. There is a fierce debate going on in Lansing about which of these two locally significant schools should be closed to ease the burden of the Lansing School District. Even though Eastern is my preferred school, it’s easy to see that Sexton holds the same accolades for this west side of town. Even as an Eastern student I have a strong relationship with Sexton. Eastern doesn’t have its own football field. While I attended school there and participated in the marching band we always played our home games at the Sexton field. I’ve had many, many memories right there at the Sexton field. It would be hard to imagine this school not being a school. It would also be difficult to imagine this school hosting both Big Reds and Quakers. I’ve walked through neighborhoods where the school has shut their doors. It creates such barrenness to the area, almost like a tombstone in a cemetery. There’s something exhilarating about a school ground full of screaming kids; playing and learning. It always makes me smile while I take my walks. It would be discouraging to have another abandoned school, sitting vacant while the neighborhood deteriorates from its own loneliness. But for now, the school sits open with its resources as a school available to those eager to use them. For me, today, it resulted in a pleasant walk, in a pleasant neighborhood around the J.W. Sexton High School.
I pushed it on this last walk. I went to parts of the city that I was unfamiliar with. My original intentions were to park at Meijer on South Pennsylvania and walk north to the new St. Vincent dePaul Thrift Store and then make my way back south to Meijer again. My plan was to write about resilience; the nature of a person or business or even a city like Lansing to get knocked down yet find the courage and strength to get back up. I’m not talking about getting up, dusting off and walking away. I’m talking about getting hit hard, then climbing back up and standing firmly in place, hands on hips, shoulders stiff, surrounded by loved ones. They look the adversity square in the face and say, “that really hurt, but I’m not backing down. You might have gotten a good punch in but you will not win this fight. Not only will I win but this will make me stronger. Watch this!” Man I love that idea.
In the middle of December last year the St. Vincent De Paul store located at Elm and Washington in REO Town was struck by a devastating fire. It left their building, all the donations, office supplies and a multitude of undelivered Christmas presents destroyed. In less than a day new donations were being made and social media was reposting ways community members could help. In a very short time the St. Vincent DePaul store was relocated to 5206 S. Cedar St. where over 50 volunteers and an overwhelming community support, including donations from Accident Fund ($10,000 check) and Meijer ($10,000 in gift cards and merchandise), allowed them to open their new store on January 28, 2012. The City of Lansing also donated a closed down fire station to be used as a storage facility. A church in Brighton filled a pole barn with supplies and volunteers had to make multiple trips to collect all the items. All the generosity was evident when I stopped in as two separate store fronts were full of items to be purchased at very reasonable prices. I was told by the operations manager that on their grand opening day there were over 800 sales, with all proceeds being used to help pay utilities for those that are in need! Talk about resilient.
Inspired by this, I continued this walk beyond the 3 mile, one hour stroll I usually find myself doing. Not that there is anything wrong with that. The one hour, 3 mile thing seems to be my norm as I try to fit the saunters between work and school schedules of my family. Today, however, there was no need for me to race home. I had all afternoon. Yes, I skipped lunch but I think I could bear being a little hungry. I’ve recently watched (through social media posts) a couple really good people show their resilience. I feel strengthened and encouraged when watching others suffer through circumstances with dignity and courage. Like my friend Dalia. I worked with her at Wendy’s back in high school. Tomorrow is the one year marking of the death of her son. Even thinking of what she’s been through makes me teary. Yet her messages are of hope. She offers thanks to all those who’ve helped her stand this past year. She concerns herself with the perfection of her other children’s’ birthday parties. She amazes me. That is resilience. Or another friend whose healthy daughter was taken to a regular doctor appointment for a bloated tummy and learns it’s Leukemia. Wow! Did she crumble to the ground and become unresponsive in her agony? No! She started a CaringBridge page so all of her friends could go through this experience with her. She urged her friends to raise more funds than last year for our Relay for Life team. Amazing! I know someone that recently had to give testimony about a horrific crime. It’s hard for me to think about all that he’s been through and then to be asked to stand before lawyers and judges in court to the detriment of his own safety. He did this knowing he might be putting himself and his family in harm’s way. When this all came to pass I asked his wife if he was making the right choice by coming forward. She said, “He has to do it. It’s the right thing to do. Who else will do it?” I was never more proud.
These struggles go on for everyone. Something will eventually come up. It’s really how we respond to these difficulties that prove our resilience; to look at the hardship and think I will not be taken down by this. I will not give up! I will find the silver lining, the light at the end of the tunnel and the ability to feel blessed despite the agonies.
It seemed like a little gesture; to walk an incredibly longer walk than normal, in an area I was a bit nervous to walk. There were moments during this walk where I thought I could become the victim. I even called my husband at one point just to let him know where I was just in case I didn’t return. That way he would know where to find me. I was out on a street with very little around me; no safe place to go to, with dangerously fast cars passing. I knew though, that if I continued walking I would make it home. And I did, each step inspired by the strong fight by friends and family and the Lansing community.
Photos from the walk can be found here.