Friday, March 26, 2021

Little Voices


Thought for the day:

Now think about your day-to-day life in Columbia/HoCo. Could you function without a car?

I don’t think I could. I’m fortunate to live within walking distance of a grocery and pharmacy, but, every place else I need to go requires a car and/or isn’t served by public transportation. I don’t mean to suggest that this is true for everyone, but it almost seems as though our slogan could be, “Howard County: You Can’t Get Over There From Over Here.”

And it’s not just the way our county is laid out, the availability of public transportation, or infrastructure to support pedestrians and bikers. It’s attitudes.

There’s a pretty deeply held assumption that owning a car is a prerequisite. If you don’t have the wherewithal to own one you are deemed to be a lesser member of society. 

I thought that I was above such attitudes until recently. I belong to a local Buy Nothing group on Facebook where members can ask for items they need or post items they are ready to part with. If an item is “gifted” to you then you go to that person’s house and pick it up. (It’s rather like Freecycle. But more fun.) I began to notice that some requests for items came with the caveat:  I will need a delivery. Something about that made me uncomfortable.

I realized that somewhere inside I had a resentful response. A little voice in my head was saying, “Why should you get a delivery when the rest of us have to go pick up? Isn’t that cheating somehow?” 

Wow, that’s an ugly little voice.

Over time I have seen the admin of the page make it clear that all members are valuable and to be respected, whether they have cars or not. If it works for you to deliver to someone, that’s all a part of the Buy Nothing Process. If you aren’t able to deliver you can post a request for the Gift of Time to see if someone else can deliver it.

There’s absolutely no judgement. I had learned something about giving and about community I hadn’t even known I needed to know. And something inside me relaxed. 

Until this experience I would have sworn I harbored no prejudice towards those who don’t have cars, but that wouldn’t have been exactly true. It’s funny how some things are ingrained in you and influence your judgement while you don’t even know they are there.

Back to the tweet from Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. Could that statement ever be true in Columbia/HoCo? How would we make it true? What would need to change the most: our physical layout/infrastructure,  or, our attitudes?

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