The Old Man of Anacostia

Resolutions: It’s Time To Be on Time, and Beautify Our Space


When a new year arrives, there are always people who make resolutions–some which they keep and others that are broken by Groundhog Day.  A friend of mine told me that his resolution for 2021 is to be more punctual both professionally and personally.  I told him how much I admired him for it and wish that more people would make the same resolution.  At my age, time is my most precious possession and I do not like to have it abused or wasted.

I have always believed that people consciously and unconsciously demonstrate their disrespect for others by the way that they deal with time.  How many of us know people who are habitually late?   The teasing concept of CPT has been passed down for generations in the African American community and it is time that it be buried in the same grave as the N word.

There are some activists and leaders who have raised chronic lateness to an art form and the community is inconvenienced by meetings and events not starting or ending on time.  The COVID pandemic has moved most meetings into a virtual environment and some of the constant late starters and latecomers have zoomed right into it.  We all must make allowances for technical difficulties in this virtual environment, but please do not invite people to a meeting and have them wait for 20 minutes while the platform is being set up.  If you do not know how to work Zoom, please find someone who does in advance of the meeting.  These constant late starting virtual meetings are really annoying.  After all, are we waiting for people to park their cars before getting started?  Please remember that children are watching.  I once had a teenager tell me that no one in his family is ever on time.  Youths who are constantly late for school and their summer jobs are many times imitating their adult role models.

I had another friend tell me that his resolution is to be involved in neighborhood cleanups.  Those events are definitely worthwhile but when are we as a community going to collectively address the trash issue and mobilize for policy changes to clean up the streets?   If cleanliness is next to godliness, there are some east of the river locations that look like Satan’s playgrounds.  The trash and blight in our business corridors should be unacceptable.  The bottles, cans and trash that litter our streets constitute environmental and health hazards.  Older native Washingtonians can tell you about when our city had deposits on the bottles and kids made money collecting and returning them.  Why is it taking the DC government so long to return to that practice?  Why have so many of our community organizations and leaders not made the environment a priority?

There is a connection between trash and crime.  When children see adults littering the streets, they will do the same.  When youths grow up in trash, they will think that is acceptable and will talk trash, adopt trashy behavior and sometimes trash other people.  Leaving a homicide victim on the street is another form of litter.

I told my friend that being involved in cleanups is commendable, but I want to see us move as a community from constantly cleaning up trash and start to focus on beautification.  We must embrace our environment whether in all is grandeur or its disgrace.

Philip Pannell is a long time Ward 8 community activist. He can be contacted at