Rebuilding Tucson with Purpose

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This past week on the local news, Tucson was declared the “Worst City in Arizona” based on poverty and unemployment.  Somehow, I didn’t feel sad for my home town because Tucson has always persevered, despite past knocks by national polls and media for its large population of homeless, lack of job opportunities and strained economy.  Like many humanitarian organizations that help countries who have faced poverty for decades, there’s a different strategy that must be resurrected.

While stopped at an intersection on Friday evening, we looked over to see an elderly man with a sign.  As many know, soliciting money on street corners is quite common in Tucson and other cities across the US.  The homeless or those who are struggling muse find ways to supplement income for food and shelter. However, this man was in his mid-seventies (possibly older) with a sign that read “I will clean your yard”.  He wasn’t asking for money directly or a hand-out.  He was ready to work.  He had a few basic landscaping tools on a chair beside him, including an old edger and air blower propped beside it.  He was very frail, emaciated, sun burnt and hungry.  It was difficult to imagine that he could actually do any strenuous work, particularly outside in the hot sun.  But none of that mattered to him.  He was ready to put in the work and get paid.

This truly resonated with me.  He was not begging but offering his labor.  Some might say this man was smart in his strategy.  Most would not would not expect for this man to overexert himself in his condition but instead give him a few dollars to buy food.  Whatever the case, this reminded me in that moment that, in all our day to day hustle and bustle, our life worries are minuscule in comparison.

I’m hopeful Tucson will bounce back economically.  As I’ve learned through my glob ball development studies, empowering poor communities to rebuild their lives in ways that are ‘sustainable’ is the key to progress.  This man was clearly determined to reciprocate any good fortunes that might come his way.

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