My 11 year old son, Levi, is a worrier. I have to admit he comes by it naturally. But he’s always been this way which makes it hard to determine whether it’s hard-wired into his DNA or just the product of an overly dramatic, catastrophizing mother.
One of the things he’s always been concerned about is the environment. So when, as a four year old, he approached his preschool teacher with a “clean up the park” scheme, I didn’t really think twice about it. Luckily his teacher was a creative empowering woman who believed in following her students’ leads whenever possible. Thus was born the first annual “Levi Gettleman Clean Up the Park Field Trip.”
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that at four years old, he created permission slips, presented to his classmates on the importance of caring for the community, and led the kids in gathering and recycling all the garbage they could collect at Police Park in Phoenix. We were proud of him and his determination and happily popped for a pizza party in the park after all the work was completed.
I was surprised when the following year came and my little kindergartener reminded me that he needed to return to his preschool and start preparing for the second annual event. He called his teacher, met with her to plan the trip, and once again, with her help and encouragement, pulled off a fabulous and meaningful field trip that taught the kids experientially how to honor their environment and strengthen their community.
Yesterday, I’m pleased to tell you, was the 7th annual “Levi Gettleman Clean up the Park” day. Things are pretty similar from year to year. The apple core, peanut butter, birdseed feeders are still joyfully configured and hung from the trees. Every trace of garbage, litter and refuse is carefully removed by tiny, gloved fingers who take a sense of pride and ownership in the task at hand. And the work of separating regular garbage from recyclables is the final act of the day. A little park play time is allowed and the pizza arrives just in time to fill the little bellies that have put in a hard day’s work.
I’m not invited to tag along anymore. So I drop off and pick up and hang around just long enough to accept a few kudos about my boy from parents and teachers who’ve watched him grow up over these years. And I feel proud — of him, of what he believes, of his tenacity, commitment and honor.
Once in a while it’s nice to bask in the feeling that we may actually have done something right as parents along the way. Although truth be told, most of his gifts probably did come directly from the factory 🙂