Today, I took advantage of a very warm January day, and ate my lunch outside. I found a bench in a sunny spot on the Centennial Mall, near where the Occupy Lincoln folks have set up shop. I was a little outside of their campground, between their tents and the capitol building.
During my lunch, I witnessed an interesting dichotomy: on my right were three Occupiers. One had a guitar, one had a congo drum and they were playing music and singing (kind of a bluesy, John Mayer sound). The third was dancing along with a hula hoop. They all had a rather stereotypical “hippie” look to them – scraggly hair, tie dye shirts, etc., and the hula hoop girl was barefoot in a sun dress. They played off and on, usually starting up when a group of suits walked through the mall on their way towards the capitol.
On my left were three city employees from the Parks and Rec department. They were dressed in working clothes – jeans, boots and long sleeve shirts. They spent the time meticulously trimming branches from two smallish trees in the middle of the mall.
For most people walking through or driving by, the reaction to the scene would be something along the lines of knocking the Occupiers for being good-for-nothing drains on society who should get a job and become productive members of society like the city employees. Sure, some may question why it takes three people to trim two trees, but that is beside the point for a lot of people. Heck, I’d probably think the same thing myself if I was driving by.
But today, I found myself being more appreciative of the Occupiers than the city employees. Not because I have a kindred connection with the Occupy movement – while I am definitely in the 99%, I still have no idea what Occupy is truly hoping to achieve, nor do I have a clue how a bunch of tents near the Nebraska Capitol is going to accomplish it.
Instead it was the differences in the moment: the folks working, while appearing good, were actually a big waste of time and resources. You see, Centennial Mall is going to undergo a long overdue renovation starting on March 1.*
*A date that (not so coincidentally) will also mean the end of the Occupy Lincoln camp on the mall.
I overheard one of the city workers saying that those two trees, being lovingly trimmed like full size bonsai trees, are going to be removed when the renovation work begins (in four weeks). Awesome.
Meanwhile, the Occupy folks were providing some pleasant music and some much-needed color for those passing by. As the city workers were packing up, they thanked the Occupy musicians for performing for them.
When I walked back to the office, I made sure to thank them too. Because they reminded me that sometimes things are always as simple as they seem on the surface, that music is a great tool to bring people together, and diversion from the norm (such as a barefoot young lady spinning a hula hoop around her neck) can have an impact on an otherwise mundane Monday.