A Community of Weirdos

Written by: Lola Bamberger

Walnut Creek Saves is a program that has much to brag about. The program makes our community a more tightly knit, educated place; all while saving you money and the planet water and energy. But this has already been written about and is common knowledge for those familiar with what we do. Being a part of Walnut Creek Saves has taught me something much more important and much less relevant to what our mission is – people are weird, and that isn’t necessarily bad.

I’ve worked outreach events in a large variety of places. At Ace Hardware, at parks, at festivals, in downtown Walnut Creek, and the list goes on. At each of these places I’ve encountered at least one person that is like no person I’ve ever met before. Let me take you back to my first outreach event, at Ace. All was well as I handed out fliers to residents that were sometimes less than willing to accept them until a man, clearly homeless, comes up to me and my fellow Conservation Coach. Normally, I would have walked on and ignored his crazy remarks, but seeing that I couldn’t simply leave my post I stayed and listened to what I expected to be incoherent rambling. My expectations were far off.

While he may not have had the most educated appearance he knew more about wind energy than I did. While this may seem like nothing more than a weird encounter that turned pleasant, the truth is that my outlook on people has changed because of it. I no longer ignore people that outwardly look as if they are “weird”. If I’m walking along the streets and I have change to spare I look for someone that has a better use for it than I, and I encourage you to do the same.

One of my favorite outreach events was at the Ruth Bancroft Garden. For this particular event the organizers at the garden decided not to advertise as thoroughly as they have in the past. Sadly, this resulted in only a handful of people showing up. Instead of mind-numbingly standing around we decided to go and listen to a lecture about grey-water. This quickly turned into a much more personal conversation about water-free toilets and the many projects that have been started to promote them. This is not a conversation that you can comfortably strike up with just anyone, but the woman leading the talk spoke so passionately about global warming that it seemed completely reasonable to be conversing about toilets that were miles out of my comfort zone. Sometimes when I’m in a situation where I find myself in a conversation that seems awkward or forced I think back to this water-free toilet enthusiast and I remind myself that any conversation can be made normal if you present it as such.

To be frank, I used to think Walnut Creek was a simple suburban neighborhood not unlike any other, but I have been proven wrong. There are people in our community that care passionately about saving water and energy, or even just money. These are the people I encounter on a daily basis while I’m working events. What truly makes Walnut Creek so unique are its weirdos. For the most part they have been ignored for their efforts, but now they can be acknowledged. I have learned more meaningful life lessons from our weirdos than I have from most other people. And let’s be realistic, we’re all a little weird.

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