Hunting Park Ave even in its best days never hosted a Street of Dreams tour. In 1914 when the row houses were first built, new home owners were named Mario and Maria. On early Fall evenings, the fragrances of simmering spaghetti sauce with meatballs coated the air like a culinary perfume. Then things changed. Old neighbors moved away. People from other parts of the world moved in. And Hunting Park became a residential Ellis Island that families passed through on their way to someplace else.
And that brings us to today.
I have loved ones who live just one block to the west of the included photographs. The tree-lined street is to the right off of Hunting Park Ave on 7th Street and the nearly treeless street is off to the left. Same street. Same vintage of leaning homes. The first is loud with chatter and invites but since the second has no sun screen, neighbors stay off their front porches and the scorching sidewalks.
As it turns out, some point decades ago, the folks on one side of 7th Street together decided to buy and plant trees even though most of them would never get to savor the shade of all their hard work. Together they planted, watered and weeded for the sake of the next generation. Each time they dug a new hole, it was a statement of faith.
How does that happen?
I wonder what the person was like who spearheaded the original community project. What did they say to inspire their neighbors? How did they persuade Luigi, Seamus, Moses, and Qwan, the street’s steelworkers, to give up some of their weekly pub money for the sake of a few spindly trees that might likely die? I’ve no doubt they used thoughtful words of vision and hope. And probably a lot of them. When I think about it, it humbles me how really few conversations I have on a day-to-day basis where my friends and I intentiionally set out to inspire each other with hope and vision. It is just seems so much easier to shift into cynicism and snark. But in the end, you get what you plant. I have to decide what sort of street I want to leave for the families I may never meet.