Allendale News: It’s the Little (and Big) Things
Sometimes it’s the big things that make all the difference. And sometimes it’s the little things. But here are some recent events that we got to be a part of, and which can give you an insight into how you may serve and pray for this town.
Little Thing: Mural at the Pink Garden
It’s not really fair or accurate to describe the service of artists Freedom & Nancy Rodriquez as “little.” After all, they packed up three children and drove from Atlanta to stay in Allendale for two nights. Not exactly the typical family vacation.
They joined a friend (read about her perspective of Engaging Through Art) from Grace Church in putting a wonderful finishing touch on the Pink Garden, a project by City Councilwoman and community activist Lottie Lewis.
The reason I count this as little is because they made this mural look so easy. They had a pre-made sketch (via some fancy-shmancy Mac software, I’m sure), a tape measure, and some spray paint. And voila. Project done in about 3-4 hours.
We loved getting to connect with this family, as our kids matched up well in personalities, and we just so happen to use the same homeschool curriculum. Plus, Freedom (yes, that’s his name) and their two boys came by the after school program. I was most excited for him to meet and encourage a particularly talented young artist that we have at the Club. (Edit: He also worked on graphics for Operation We Care.)
Big Thing: Donation to People in the Schools
Again, It’s not really fair to call what another guy did as a “big thing.” You and I think it is, but the guy who made this donation would think nothing of it. It started a few months ago, when I asked two friends to donate their time and resources — one guy did the graphics design, one guy produced the finished product. (I’m withholding details for the sake of anonymity.)
I was sheepish in asking even for the $300 worth of stuff, but both guys thanked me for asking. And by the time it was done, the donated items were probably worth at least $4000 retail. I was overwhelmed, as were the recipients.
Now, will a $300 (or $4000) donation change Allendale forever? Absolutely not. But my hope was that it would provide an encouragement to some leaders who are pouring themselves out for the next generation.
And the guy who did the bulk of the donation sent me a note that included these encouraging words for me:
“Take this stuff and go bless these folks. This gift is from God . . and you are the face of it . . . go leverage this for relational equity and Gospel purpose.”
Little Thing: Joanna Working as a Poll Worker
The “little thing” in this case is the paycheck I’m looking at right now. My wife was paid a whopping $60 to work at a polling place for over 13 hours (6 AM – 7:30 PM), not including the preparatory training.
But she was at the larger of the two voting locations in Fairfax, and had about 400 people come through. She saw people she knew (including through church and the after school program), and met many other folks. It was a great opportunity to be culturally-engaged.
Side note: the election was for the mayor of Fairfax (the incumbent was ousted, by a 2:1 margin) and three positions on the City Council.
Big Thing: Referendum for a New City Hall
This was the negative item on my list, and I debated including it, since the other three were so positive. But I needed to include it to give you a clue into some common local mindsets.
In Allendale, there was a referendum to allow the city to raise taxes (less then $50 per person) in order to build a new City Hall close to the retail district (as much as we have one) in town. I was in favor of this idea because:
- The current one is a mile outside of the center of town;
- Revitalizing the town will be crucial to attracting new businesses;
- The old City Hall would be taken over by the Allendale Police Department, which currently resides in a double-wide trailer jacked up on blocks. I’m serious.
Having proudly participated in my first Allendale election, I wore my “I Voted” sticker all day. When I was eating breakfast at Hardee’s (where else?), one of the employees told me that she hoped the referendum didn’t pass, since “we don’t need taxes raised; we need jobs.”
I let the comment pass, but I believe her logic was wrong. The fact is that activity breeds activity. Fifteen or so years ago, I was dead set against efforts to revitalize downtown Greenville (SC). I thought it was a waste of effort, money, and time. As you may know, I could not have been more wrong. The city invested in the future, and this investment of time and money has paid itself off many times over.
It’s just part of the often-shortsighted mindset of this area. Few people in Allendale have a long-term, investment-minded perspective. After all, I was 1 of 105 people who voted in favor of this referendum.
Compare this with the middle class, where we more easily sacrifice short-term comfort for long-term rewards. (Do you have 401k deductions straight from your paycheck?) As one friend (and long-time Allendale resident) told me,
“If they said it would cost each person a penny, it would still be voted down.”
So that’s what we’re dealing with in Allendale: for a place where so many resources have been invested from the outside, few people from within this community want to make the same time of investments and sacrifices.