Almost six years ago, I proudly stepped away from college with a crisp, fresh college degree. I was certified educated, ready to take on the world. Almost six years ago, I ended up working on a community farm, growing squash, killing bugs, and watching over the community service volunteers. Great use of my fine arts degree.
The farm was fairly small, about 150 by 250 feet. It had sections of squash, plots of peppers, innumerable baby tomatoes, even a row of grapes that never, ever grew. My partners in crime and grime were, Lou, Geoff, and my brother, Sam. To help us tend to the crops we had a league of volunteers. They came in all shapes and sizes; high school students trying to earn summer credits, juvies doing community service in lieu of jail time, and recovering cokeheads from halfway houses. Our finest student volunteer was “Emir”.
Emir was our star volunteer. He was a symbol of everything good and right in the world. He was our little, brown beacon of hope. Emir was a high school sophomore of Middle Eastern descent, skinny as a rail, with dark black hair. He was soft spoken, which lead us to believe he must be the strong, silent type. Emir was an invaluable asset in the war on hunger. As our Food Bank boss noted, “[we] were in direct competition with migrant workers!” Despite that we were a nonprofit and also not competing with anyone, as the volunteer supervisors, we were under a lot of pressure to pick our veggies as quickly as possible. When we asked Emir to go pick green beans, he would silently saunter over to the rows and wouldn’t quit until his hands were thick with beetle blood and dirt.
This was fairly typical.
Unlike most of our “volunteers,” Emir was working at the Farm for high school credits. He was a good kid, but one day, he didn’t show up for work. We didn’t think much of it. Actually, we didn’t think much about anything, except for lunch. Sick of eating dirt or 7/11-brand chips and cola, Lou, Geoff, Sam, and myself piled into the Food Bank’s ’82 Mazda Deathtrap pick-up. We were on the hunt for a decent meal. I can’t even recall if we ever found any grub, but I do recall that we ended up by the airport. We were lost, belligerent, and each screaming different directions at Lou, who responded by jerking the wheel left and right, slamming Geoff and Sam into the headrests on the front seats.
Lou had driven across Rhode Island and back. We knew we were in the same town as our Farm, but we weren’t sure how to get back. Slowly crawling past a park in our Mazda, we look out the window to see none other than Emir, equipped with a fresh cast on his arm. We pulled up alongside Emir and friends, with the windows rolled down.
“Hey Emir!” I yelled.
He was visibly shaken – as any little, brown fellow might be when a beat up, pick-up truck full of pungent, dirty, white boys rolls up to you. He lifted his cast, and quickly blurted out “IBrokeMyArmPlayingHockey, that’s why I wasn’t at the Farm today!” We assured Emir that we only wanted directions back to the Farm, we weren’t going to drag him across Rhode Island behind the Mazda.
Unfortunately, Emir was not nearly as skilled with directions as he was at picking tomatoes. However, the following week, Emir was back at it again, picking vegetables one handed. If only all of our workers were as silent and diligent as he.
Next Week: Adolescents.