The water was hot, the shower steamy. I rubbed the shampoo bar across my hair and scrubbed it into frothy bubbles. I sniffed. The air was a bit pungent so I repeated and rinsed again.
Drying off, I gave wide berth to the reeking green cape and stinking spandex littering the bathroom floor. It had been an fetid day in the phone booth.
Why is it that The Bulk gets a phone call to sit on clean, quiet Home Owners Association committee while my call is to rake rotting compost around an edible garden at my son's school?
The truth, though, was that I didn't mind working in the garden, accompanied by six other caped individuals. I quite liked what we shared: the political jokes, the dream for a school garden that would feed our children snack daily, ideas for greening the school's cleaning supplies, information about how our children were doing or who had a crush on whom. In fact, I'm not sure that my garden work day was heroic at all.
If you look it without the green colored glasses, it was a purely selfish act. An investment - one that I expect will pay out far more valuable dividends than you find on Wall Street.
I was making an investment in my community.
If the Dow Jones continues to tantrum, gasoline supplies dwindle, the ballot measure to provide schools funds fails, community is where the value will be, from whence repayment will come.
And that repayment comes when you least expect it and most need it.
Last week, I suddenly lost the preschool placement for my youngest. Every preschool around has wait lists a year long. An email to my oldest's school listserv yielded dozens of leads and one open spot - bypassing the wait list - at my preschool of choice.
Most of those people don't know me. But they know, by virtue of my son's placement at the school (a parent participation charter school), that I am willing to don a cape daily to help the community. Maybe I worked with their son on math or taught their daughter cooking. Maybe I gave their neighbor's son a ride to school when his mom had surgery or I worked alongside their friend, scrubbing cubbies the day before school started.
I've made all those investments. And they've made similar ones. We've worked together to create an economy that depends not on dollars and cents but on effort and support.
Scrubbing, shoveling compost, teaching first graders yoga poses, or volunteering for lice check duty. We are part of a community. One that will pull together and keep our children learning even if, God forbid, that ballot measure doesn't pass. One that will plant an edible garden to feed our children, that will provide parent volunteers to cut afterschool care costs. One that will organize carpools and walking school buses to reduce emissions.
As I gingerly retrieve my malodorous costume, I remember what they say about payback. They are wrong, though.
Payback is beautiful.