Do it yourself …Hufflepuffs!

What inspires you to CHANGE how you see things?

Color your life, with change!

Do you make positive change, clean your neighborhood, or wait for (and hope) others to do so ? Is it nature or nurture?

The question always raised by fields like applied psychology (developmental, social, environmental …research is similar), socio-linguistics (“language creates culture” versus the typical Chomsky nativist view of the “language acquisition device” or LAD). 

Our nature is influenced by our environment and so this interaction creates change, for better or worse.

Speaking of language, a recent blog post about “Shiny, Happy People…” by Fractured-Faith resolved that there is a certain ‘insincerity’ and even ‘fakeness’ of some people who appear happy and ‘perfect’ all the time. This might be true, as it is likely cultural (or ‘sub-cultural’ not just ethnicity). There is reason why the rest of the world refers to the U.S. ‘happy’ and there is a popular song by Pharell Williams …. “cause I’m Happy!”

Why are we not happy? Why should we not be happy? And do we want more misery and unhappiness which we see a lot? Is it true that misery loves company? Is this why some people don’t make even the simplest changes in the way they live? Is it a choice

We cannot deny what we see “Beauty and the Trash,”  “Transformers,” “respite and public spaces” many cities are making choices for positive change and this includes working with local artists. Making even the smallest change to our environments adds more positivity and hope to all who live or work there. A book written in 1992 about Care of the Soul by Psychologist Dr. Thomas Moore for me was pivotal about this issue. He emphasizes changing our attitude, maintaining our friendships and our surroundings, our home “no matter how big or small,” to help us in the short and long-term. 

We see that even in several low-income neighborhoods with poor homeowners (family inheritance) or just plain poor, when one maintains what they have and doesn’t  focus only on how much “money they don’t have“ —  the financial component — places where people look out for each other and take care of their surroundings, it creates a sense of trust, fulfillment, and often change. Lately in most cities, due to high crime and globalization we see entire sections of uncared for “overly-tagged,” full of trash neighborhoods and municipalities. We know that when communities make the decision to change, they can. One great example is a once down-trodden neighborhood near Boston, the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) that continues to make change for residents through today.

8fe93496-d38a-4589-9f80-3025d2a3893bCreating murals that beautify, a simple act of painting over an otherwise ugly metal object add beauty, meaning, and value to a community.

Some say these acts can help to reduce crime (think “broken window syndrome”) as more local businesses open to attract visitors thus increasing local income.

Young people off the street with more jobs, happier people… domino effect.  Maybe some of us would rather have some ‘fake’ happiness through these small but important changes, than all the misery (and jealousy) that we experience on a daily basis?

Over the years, having visited countless neighborhoods including villages, towns, cities, in Europe and the Americas as well as parts of the Middle East, I realize it’s a matter of community choice and more importantly individual efforts. As a matter of fact, universities like MIT even are studying this on a larger scale —  a friend first told me about environmental re-engineering (in the 1990s, wow!) that included work spaces — from the ergonomic cubicles to the broad table placed strategically as a meeting area for people to gather — and being serious about studying change in public spaces .“Build it and they will come,” “no man is an island unto himself,” “Just DO it” are all well-known quotes that apply well here. This month, we did it. Working hard to plan for some research and community collaborations. And on an individual level what did I do? 

♥ Made the change for ourselves, and  painted the common space that was soiled from mold and mildew because ‘no one bothered’ all these months… and the outcome was worth it.

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 9826b99f-635d-428f-9961-758e8c6226b8.jpegAccording to the world of Harry Potter, one can discover what personality type they are. For example, the hard-working  Hufflepuffs (answer the questions via the Sorting Hat in “Pottermore” to discover your ‘House’).  

These individuals are the supposed honest ”worker-bees” and the related color is yellow. Are they ‘as good as gold’? In Don Lowry’s “True Colors” this person would be a “gold”,  going back to Ancient Greek philosophy or medicine  — Plato’s sensible type or Hippocrates’ black bile humor. All individuals are of course one part of the balance of life, as there are various personality types, but we need more community builders!

Speaking of bees, a recent scientific debate declared that bees are the most important ‘beings’ on our planet as they are in danger of becoming extinct ….they both contribute to our healthy ecosystems through pollination as well as by the healing power of their honey (see scienceandinfoblogpost).

We need to know and communicate about these issues to increase our community health literacy. We need to ‘spread the word’ that simple acts like adding more potted flowers attracts more bees (they have done in Denmark), and adds beauty and value to any neighborhood. And who knows, once one person starts, then another, and another….

One house, repainted, with the love of flowers…. in a lower income neighborhood.

Individual and community efforts, in often down-trodden and neglected communities make our daily life more beautiful and create hope.

 

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“It’s a respite” …. positive change in a public space

Her place of respite

Soula often comes to this part of town to go to the public beaches in the area, a southern city of Greater Attica. She takes a break, before she takes a bus back to her home several kilometers, and cities away. She sits on a bench listening to the water falling like rain, smiles taking in the “Indian summer” sun rays.

My brief conversation with Soula, an older woman who loves swimming in the sea as much as she can, revealed a person very aware of her own well-being (physical and mental health), seeing this specific spot as a ‘respite’ place to relax before her day goes on. She emphasized, “the Mayor is doing a wonderful job, hopefully he will continue for many years to come” hoping that regardless of political party we give credit when it is due. She likes (as I do) the modern designed fountains, the trees (fig trees, acorn trees, daphne herb trees) planted in the area, symbolic to the community, and enhancing the ecosystem. 

Water Fountains and trees planted last year, city center of Glyfada, Attica Greece

For years before, this part of the center had trash and small beach-type selling kiosk points that never seemed to be making enough to keep afloat. After many tries, the local Mayor made big changes. He is one of many around the country making changes for those who live in constant crisis (financial, emotional) and even physical crisis (destroyed playgrounds, dirty tagging everywhere, trash even hypodermic needles that threaten the public’s health …. see post on ‘Riding the Crisis’ in HealthyselfHealthyWorld).

Besides repainting parking space lines, adding clothing recycling points by Recycom — whose main webpage indicates “Together we can make a difference” — the Mayor has managed to ‘win the hearts’ of all people whom I talk to, as the idiom says, keep my ear to the ground to listen to the voices of local communities and visitors. It seems that public space, at least what is done to it, affects the perception of all passersby. At least those who really notice the changes. And then there is the position of unlawfulness and vandalism….and this city is no exception.

I recently came across why police would intervene in a public space with the question of ‘What is public space protection order?’ in the U.K. and these “nuisances” include keeping dogs on a leash, no public use of alcohol, and in general as “having a detrimental effect on the quality of life” (Para 1).  So what about trash in general and the issue of dirty tagging on public and private buildings?  Hmmm.  The Urban Dictionary has some interesting quotes and general comments about tagging by both taggers and individual community members (Urb Dict: tagging comments). There are clean-up efforts like ‘Athens Un-tag’ (LIFO article 2018) but in this part of the world and it turns out in most of our cities, the epidemic of vandalistic style graffiti has gone amok.  But with the bad, there are amazing graffiti art areas and international as well as local artists like Dreyk the Pirate truly make an effort to beautify otherwise dull and depressing areas.  In a past interview with Penna he indicated that yes, if artists don’t get permission and they vandalize it is a problem and reflects negatively even to his very positive street artwork (the law in Greece and in other European countries is similar and involves getting permission as well as taking into account the community ‘value’). 

So how about this? Get the popular graffiti artists to help us increase our graffiti literacies which is one of the many in the umbrella of health literacy. Develop some type of App where people take photos and the community and the local governance decides if they should ‘keep’ it or get rid of it….for the sake of peace of mind, community well-being, and finding our own points of respite for all ages and peoples to enjoy. This has been done in hundreds of cities, and all it takes is a bit of organization and local community building…. step by step.

Love your City, seaside.