It was all rather exciting, just a little embarrassing, and essentially gob-smacking to receive the letter advising of our Community Service Award. It’s not that we weren’t flattered, but overriding everything was the feeling that we really didn’t do anything to warrant the honour.
It all started about five years ago when we learnt of a community programme called Off the Wall in which the Council provides you with the materials to paint over or clean off graffiti in an area you nominate. It seemed like the sort of thing we like: a way to actively make a difference on our own doorstep, and so we signed up. But where to start…Post earthquake, our suburb had been hit pretty hard by taggers (on both commercial and private property) but the Off the Wall gurus had a plan. They printed off letters advising of their service, how timely removal of graffiti has been proven to all but eliminate the problem, and that we Homesteaders would happily meet with any graffiti-affected neighbours to discuss us painting over/scrubbing off the graffiti on their property. Now this is the embarrassing bit…
Not one of our letters received a response. A little despondent, we decided to spend the gloriously sunny Saturday we had set aside for “good works” at our local market doing a little community catch-up and that is when all became obvious: our street was a hive of scrubbing/sanding/painting activity. One neighbour had even borrowed a water-blaster and was having a wonderful time obliterating tags from anything and everything. A kind person would say we provided the nudge and direction everyone was looking for; the less-kind (and perhaps more realistic) would ponder how poorly our decorating skills were rated.
Either way, we’ve had very little business to speak of. Once in a while someone may get a bit silly with a permanent market while waiting for the school bus (nothing that a pot scrubber and some warm water can’t sort out) but that’s about it. Our main Off the Wall work comprises of filing zero Monthly Activity Returns.
In the little write up about us, we were lauded for markedly reducing the tagging in our area. We blushed when they read that out, demurely thanked them as they handed us the certificate, and shyly smiled in the mandatory photo shoot.
Not once did we disclose our secret: our tag-free neighbourhood is totally due to the collective distrust of our ability to successfully wield a paintbrush.