Thursday, July 1, 2010

Growing Humanity in Bureaucracy

In the spring as I was driving up the winding hill that is part of my weekly running route, I noticed someone planting rose bushes under an oak tree just on the other side of an old stone wall.

On my next run I stopped to survey the little garden that was establishing itself behind the scarred tree. Crumbled portions of the wall a car's width apart supported my suspicions that someone had driven off the road and into the tree, and had most likely died. With a lump in my throat, I admired the flowers and honored the effort and sentiments behind them, paying respects to the planter and his or her loved one.

A few weeks later as I jogged down the hill I spotted two rocks piled amidst the plantings, with a paper tucked in between. Curiosity got the best of me, and I read the note, which was from the City. "If you are the person who planted these flowers, can you please call me? Thank you," read the handwritten missive. A Parks and Recreation worker's card was inside.

I figured there must be rules about planting flowers along public roads, but was glad to see that the rose bushes weren't simply torn out. I wondered what would happen next--where the need to consistently enforce city policies would meet the wishes of a grieving relative to honor his loved one. The note gave me hope for an amenable solution.

This morning on my run up the hill I found two City workers digging up the plants and gently placing them in pots. "You have to remove them, huh?" I stopped to ask.

"Yes," replied one of the men regretfully, leaning on his shovel. "We're putting the flowers in pots and he will pick them up later. This is a historic oak grove," he explained, "and we have to protect the plants. But we will be placing a dedicated tree here instead." He pointed to a spot a few feet away, near the wall.

He told me that one night in the spring an elderly woman had driven off the road, over the wall, and into a tree. She passed away from injuries sustained in the accident and from other preexisting medical conditions. Her son had planted the little garden at the base of the tree.

I admitted I had been interested in the fate of the memorial and appreciated the compromise as well as the respect shown for the feelings of her mourning son.

I learned our city has a dedicated tree and bench program worth knowing about, and there are caring people working in its departments.

I'll be looking for the tree in that sacred spot on my run.

1 comment:

Ms. F said...

It's always nice to hear about bureaucrats with hearts! How nice...