Today I’m celebrating Earth Day by stirring a pile of dirt in my yard. It all began five months ago, when I nearly dislocated my shoulder from hoisting a massive bag of trash into the dumpster.
“How on earth do two people produce this much garbage?” I asked myself in disgust.
That’s when I rediscovered the world of composting. My parents had a compost pile when I was a kid, but I admit I didn’t pay too much attention to the whole operation. As an adult, I’ve become aware of how much trash I contribute to the world.
As I figure out what I’m doing with my life this year, I’m feeling nostalgic about my first job. I worked for the Department of Parks and Recreation, at one of the youth camps they host at the 20th Street tennis courts. I started helping out at the summer camps when I was 16 years old.
Coach Raymond was my boss. He told me he hired me because I connected with the kids. I was not a good tennis player at all, although I improved a bit because sometimes he stayed late to coach me. However, I learned a lot more than tennis from him. Coach Raymond modeled a work ethic which I still carry in my heart.
Here are three things I learned during the three summers I worked for him:
In July 2016 I spent the night at a church in Dayton, Ohio. It was a layover on a group bicycle ride. I had just turned 20, but the other cyclists in the group were several years older than me and as usual, they headed out together to find a bar. Rather than mope around by myself in the empty church, I went for a walk in the last hour of daylight.
The streets were deserted. Many of the commercial buildings looked vacant. Our host at the church had mentioned that the 2008 Recession hit Dayton especially hard. Maybe that’s why the downtown seemed to be at half capacity.
More than anything, my boyfriend Sung wanted to get a dog. It was all he talked about at the beginning of the pandemic. Apparently shelters were set to run out of animals any moment because everyone wanted to shelter in place with a newly adopted pet.
“Later, later,” I kept telling him. Privately, I thought, “are you nuts? How can we be responsible for a dog when we barely know what we’re doing with our own lives?”