A field trip to make a mom proud!

Levi at last year's "Clean up the park day."

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 🙂

If crime doesn’t pay, then honesty should be rewarded!

I am too honest. I really am. I’m the kind of person who corrects the cashier at Safeway when she charges me for cheap, ordinary Gala apples when in fact I’ve purchased exceedingly expensive Jazz apples.

I’ve always been this way. I can’t keep things I find on the sidewalk. I never cheated on a test in my life. And I actually feel compelled to return that extra nickel when the young man at Dunkin Donuts makes the wrong change from my $20. (Well, in my register-ringing teens, our pay got docked for every penny we fell short.)

C'mon TJ's. Give me a break.

But today I feel genuinely ripped off. And it’s all because of my insane honesty. I went to Trader Joe’s. (Yes, I’m obsessed about shopping there. I go there at least 5 times a week. But that’s another issue we can contemplate in the future.) Much to my delight, I remembered to bring in my reusable grocery bags. I normally end up running back to the car to retrieve them just as I’m entering the check-out lane.

As you probably know, Trader Joe’s offers a kind of incentive program for bringing in your own bags. Every time you use your own, you get to fill out a ticket for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate. I’ve been entering this weekly lottery for over a year. But much to my chagrin, I have never won. This seems odd to me. For someone who enters as often as I do, I was fairly certain that I would have been victorious by now. And for some reason, I really want to win this. It has taken me a great deal of energy and effort to consistently remember to bring in those dumb canvas bags, and now I want to be rewarded for it.

When they first started the program, they always gave me a ticket as I checked out. But, over time, they have become a bit chintzy with the tickets. I sometimes go weeks without being given one. I know that I could ask for one. But I’m kind of embarrassed about it. I don’t want to seem too needy or competitive. So I generally smile a little less brightly and just head out to the car disappointedly with my cadre of environmentally protective reusable bags.

But today, the gentleman ringing me up actually remembered to give me a ticket to fill out for the auction. My face lit up. I smiled and murmured some hopeful remark about it perhaps finally being my time for the big win. He affirmed my wishful philosophy by reminding me that somebody has to win. Why couldn’t it be me?

I bagged my groceries as he continued to ring up the items in my cart. That’s when I saw it. There was a second blank ticket just barely visible underneath a stack of brown paper bags. “OMG,” I thought. “I could fill that out too and then I’d for sure end up winning.” I unobtrusively palmed the extra ticket and secretly slid it over to me. When the cashier was distracted, I picked it up. (I had already dropped the first one in the little tin at the front door.)

We talked cheerfully and he helped me bag the remainder of my groceries. “Just fill it out and drop it in the tin,” I said to myself. But I couldn’t do it. What if I did actually win and it was under this kind of false pretense? How could I live with myself?

After I was bagged and payed for, I held up the bonus ticket and announced, “Hey, here’s an extra one. I just found it lying up here.” “Thanks,” he said as he collected the still blank ticket. And that was it. He didn’t thank me for my honesty. He didn’t say, “Listen, just go ahead and fill this one in too. It’ll give you better odds for winning this week.” Nothing like that. He just thanked me and stuck the ticket in the register.

I am now certain that that ticket was the winning ticket. I deserved that ticket. I bet I enter this drawing more often than anyone else in the valley. How come I never win? That’s just weird. I’m starting to think it’s all a ruse. Maybe they don’t actually pick a winner every week. Maybe they do it like once every four months or something. Whatever they’re doing, they are pissing me off and I’m one of their best customers.

If Trader Joe’s is going to reward people for protecting the environment, you’d think they’d also want to positively reenforce the kind of honesty I displayed this morning. I mean, being green is one thing. But without good, old-fashioned honesty, this planet is seriously doomed.