Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Clinging to Hope in East Cleveland

Always intrigued by the road less traveled, I set out once again to explore the side streets of the inner-city. The images of poverty are overwhelming and heart wrenching. Despair weeps from vandalized buildings and railroad overpasses, marked in spray-paint by the drug boys claiming their turf. Businesses, long gone, have left behind a ghost town. Suburbanites mostly avoid the area, even the numbered state routes carry very few cars during rush hour.

Yet this morning I found evidence of hope.

An elderly gentleman carries his cane and pulls a cart along a weedy Euclid Avenue sidewalk. One of the forgotten Americans, he searches the littered curbs in front of boarded-up storefronts, for aluminum cans that can be traded for cash. Tucked in the seam of his collection basket the Stars and Stripes hangs, unwaving yet proud, in the humid morning air.

Amidst an entire block of abandoned and vandalized houses, this purple home shouts praise and pride. It's facade, a work of art, has become both painted canvas and sculpture. The resident's messages of hope and love call out to neighbors and passers-by, not to be ignored.

At the end of a street emblazoned with cryptic graffiti, tags, and the aerosol warnings that one has entered gang territory, a different hand has painted a plaintive message.
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