I am jaded, as much as I am open minded, pragmatic as much as I am principled, disappointed as much as energized. Because of my years of mistakes and foibles, I have learned a great many things. The one lesson that stands out is of a plethora of people who have helped me throughout my life that added to who I am and what I have become. Then again some are shaking there heads and still cringing at their association with me. There are always two sides to any story!
My first official part-time job title was "Porter," while working in a hospital kitchen. I was sixteen at the time. A year or two into the job there was a blizzard and I worked sixteen-hour days for eight days. My parent’s house was two blocks from the hospital, which made it fortuitist given transportation conditions in a blizzard. Because of that effort the Director of Food Services took it upon herself to help guide me into my future. It was not until a major calamity but it happened nonetheless. It was an innocent joke that went south when someone else followed suit.
The hospital was run by the Catholic order of the Daughters of Charity, who had thirteen hospitals up and down the east coast. As a porter, I worked in the kitchen in the lowest of jobs. Cleaning mainly and delivering food carts to the different floors for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Then retrieving them to be unloaded and steam cleaned. I scrubbed pots, cleaned floors, walls, doors, shelves, ovens, fryers, grills, warmers, refrigerators, if it was in the kitchen I had to clean it.
The grill that the public and hospital staff saw had a pegboard sign advertising specials for the day. A pegboard sign is one of those things that you put letters on to spell different words. Like "Fresh Eggs," or "Bacon and Sausage," and then a price. Well one night I thought it would be funny to change the letters around to say something else. Being eighteen at the time, my hormonal inclination was to put up "Fresh Ass to Go,” I figured the morning crew would come in, see it for what it was, have a laugh and change the sign. I did not think I would have a copycat add something else.
The next time I came into work there was a big up roar about the sign being changed and an investigation was conducted. I thought what is that about, I simply changed the words a little. At the same time Willy, the manager of the dish sanitation section, asked of one of the complaintents, "How can she say anything about "fresh," when she is 75 years old?" that was his quote not mine.
Well the inquisition was on; Mrs. Andersen, the Director of Food Services, interviewed everyone. When my time came, I sat in front of her and she proceeded to tell me what this was about and asked if I had anything to do with it. I am honest to a fault and I admitted that yes, I did do it. Her immediate question was "What kind of sick mind puts something like that up in a Catholic hospital?”
I was stunned and blurted out, "All it was was Fresh Ass to Go, how bad could that be"? "What about the other thing?" she asked. "What other thing?” I asked in return. She looked me dead in the eyes and said, "Fresh P***y". My jaw dropped, and I immediately went into denial. "I will take responsibility for what I have done, but I will not take responsibility for that". I was emphatic. I was not going to take the blame for someone else’s mischief. I might have caused it but, I did not do it, nor encourage it.
I guess I convinced her because she said, "Okay," she then talked about my work ethic, my value to the organization and being there when needed. Then she asked, "What do you want to do with your life?” I was eighteen at the time but still knew the answer. "I want to work with computers, I want to sell mainframes,” I said. The thought of growing was not a thought. She said okay and told me I could leave.
I use to deliver the "Morning Sun" newspaper in the hospital and sold papers from floor to floor six days a week. This started before my first year of high school and lasted until I was a sophomore in college. So being there every day, I was able to look at job postings frequently. Some time later on the "Jobs" board was advertising for a computer operator position. It was the midnight to eight shifts on Friday and Saturday nights. I applied and used Mrs. Andersen as a reference. I was about to become a social pariah at the age of eighteen. I worked weekend nights, holidays and went to school during the week. These were the first steps that helped lead me into adulthood.
I cannot help but feel a sense of returning the favors, to give for what I have received. I have given and will continue to give, not out of obligation but from a sense of commitment. You see what we do here by treating the earth, air, animals and water correctly is just part of our whole make up. To give back does wonders for the human psyche. I know I should give of free will and I do. However, a lot of my motivation comes from the looks on people’s faces. I have been there and I know what they feel. I also know that I need nothing in return from whom we help. I would like if they pay it forward but there are no strings when we give.
I volunteered at our local soup kitchen for a year. Talk about a humbling experience and helping the poorest of the poor. I still felt good after the kitchen and dinning hall gleamed from my cleaning. Now we drop off excess vegetables and our spent layers for soup so that others are nourished.
This is a little window into why we have the motivation, drive, fortitude and stamina to keep taking the hits and getting back up. We are part of something bigger, from working on the USDA Organic BMSB workgroup to giving extra vegetables at the stand or to the soup kitchen. We are but just one piece in a huge puzzle that depicts all growers. Give willingly and you shall receive. You do not know what you will receive but I assure you that whatever it is it will be for the benefit of the greater good. Treating people, our land, water and animals with dignity, kindness and reverence is what drives us and makes all of us give thanks, It is what matters most.
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