• Darrow Woods

With work gloves and garbage bags, Ottawa residents reclaim their streets

The 'Freedom Convoy' is gone. It's been left to the locals to clean up the mess.
Cleanup begins in downtown Ottawa following the removal of 'Freedom Convoy' vehicles and protesters.

In our household the person who is cooking is not required to clean up. In theory, that’s left to those who enjoyed the meal. It’s a good guideline.

I have found that to more deeply appreciate the effort that goes into preparing a meal, it’s good for me to help clean the kitchen. I feel like I am doing my part.

It’s also quite wonderful when it’s my turn to cook, to know someone else will pitch in to clean up.

But to be completely honest, what usually happens at our house is that whoever is cooking also tidies as they go, to minimize the mess they leave at the end.

The meal itself is more enjoyable, possibly more meaningful, with the knowledge that at the end of the night the kitchen will be clean and things put back where they need to be for next time. It’s how we live together. It’s how we’ve taught our kids responsibility and the basic pleasure of taking care of each other and where we live.

On Family Day we enjoyed a walk and picnic at Point Pelee. As we ate, we were careful to not let the wind carry away our wrappings. Afterwards, we cleaned up after ourselves.

One of the lessons we seek to pass along to the next generations is that how we do things is at least as important as what we do. Usually, the claim that the ends justify the means is false and just an excuse for poor behaviour.

In the long run, we know people not so much by what they say about their goals and values but by what they actually do or fail to do.

Aside from the rightness or wrongness of the cause, I’ve wondered how many protestors, anonymous financial supporters and others who’ve cheered from a distance would appreciate losing the peace, quiet and safety outside their own homes.

Following the dispersal of the occupation of downtown Ottawa, in neighbourhoods that had been under siege, residents have been organizing. They’ve been out with work gloves and garbage bags to reclaim their streets in a practical and symbolic way.

I both admire and feel for those folks who are cleaning up their front yards, driveways, and neighbourhoods after what must have felt like an invasion.

Aside from the rightness or wrongness of the cause, I’ve wondered how many protestors, anonymous financial supporters and others who’ve cheered from a distance would appreciate losing the peace, quiet and safety outside their own homes.

I can’t imagine how it must have felt to live with the blocked streets, loud horns, noxious fumes, rude signs, white supremacist flags and the imposing presence of people who verbally challenged residents who wore surgical masks or dared to appear outdoors in hospital scrubs.

Now that many of the occupiers have been moved out, ordinary residents have been picking up garbage, taking down offensive signs and scraping human excrement from their front yards.

Young women and people of colour have spoken about how they can go out for walks again without feeling afraid.

Reporters have described garbage receptacles overflowing with beer cans and liquor bottles left on the streets.

Occupiers took time out from their regular lives to travel to Ottawa and other protest locations. Many of them planned to stay for the long haul. A number brought their children with them.

I wonder what lessons their kids absorbed from this experience.

Have they seen their parents standing up for their beliefs not just with their words but with their behaviour toward others?

Have they learned it’s OK to go to someone else’s neighbourhood, make a lot of noise and leave a horrible mess for others to clean up?

 

Darrow Woods is the pastor at Harrow United Church. He lives in Kingsville.

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