Reflection, from Walk #14, Saturday, January 9, 2016. FMWalkers set out from Sequoia Middle School and headed toward downtown Fresno. They encountered numerous homes that still had Christmas displays (a few plastic manger scenes) on their front lawns. One picnic table had rows of shoes for sale. Walkers saw many dogs behind chain link fences–one body shop was protected by two German Shepherds lumbering around the premises.
Walkers came upon a busy recycling center. Cans pressed into colorful, monolithic slabs stood like sentinels against the metal-paneled walls. Sunlight barely brightened the dark, wet, cold building, as clanging cans shuttled up a moving ramp toward the ceiling, then glimmered and bounced until they dropped into a pressing machine. People turning cans into cash visited freely, kindly, and enthusiastically with the walkers, explaining the process of can collection and doubling their money with coupons in the paper.
A tiny market across from the recycling center happily housed a cornucopia of items packed into two small aisles: piñatas, socks, shoes, aspirin, colorful pipes, hanging shirts, folded white T-shirts, hammers, pliers, Barbies, candy, gloves, tennis balls, nail clippers, superglue, pantyhose, hunting caps, oil, Tums… One man outside the market was gathering up beer bottles. He told the story of his sobriety–standing with a shopping cart with full beer bottles. He said he collects the full packs of beer from women who get angry at their husbands and throw out the beer to make the men mad.
The walkers saw mailboxes open, men searching through garbage bins, barbed wire along fences protecting a freight train and trucking facility. The barbed wire became a sharp knife against the vivid blue sky behind. A white rose along the jagged fence shouted its song of life and beauty.
Moving toward downtown Fresno, walkers strolled across the railroad tracks, with Fresno City Hall in the distance, and landed at a Halloween/costume shop for the ages: Valley Novelty. A goldmine of wigs, manikins, costumes, make-up–everything needed to become someone else for a short time.
Across the street, walkers passed the Salvation Army donations and adult rehabilitation center. Soon they passed a large warehouse that will be the new home of Lanna coffee.
In the next neighborhood, some men with their wives and children were visiting each home in the neighborhood, hoping to persuade the residents to join their church. These ministers of love and well-being were dressed in colorful, neatly pressed clothes, and they smiled easily and laughed often, drawing us toward them with their kind and inviting charm.
A house that looked like one in The Great Gatsby stood out from the others in the neighborhood, with a church just behind it.
Walkers met Marissa. Sitting on her porch, she ate sunflower seeds and talked in short bursts of sentences, while she waited for her husband. She shared some of her experiences in the neighborhood–she knew all the neighbors, but the dogs came in her yard, and there were drugs and gunshots sometimes… so we should be careful walking around. Her name was etched in the cement in front of her house.
One house had a mixed breed dog that kept coming out through the fence and following us. Walkers kept putting him back, but he kept making his way out. He was hard to resist. Finally, the owner came out and secured him.
These are our brothers and sisters in Fresno, and all of our lives and futures are tied together.
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