It happened my first year at ASU, Arizona State University. Four states away from my hometown in Kansas I went there eager to begin a new chapter in my life. I had big plans for that chapter. Like many eighteen-year-olds I had dreams of changing the world. Not only would I major in social work, I was also going to join any ecological group that I could find on campus.
Instead of becoming a conservation advocate I made do with collecting recyclable plastic, glass, and paper in my dorm. I turned away from the save-the-world activists and found friends in my dormitory and at Hillel, The Jewish Student Union on campus.
To understand this story well, one needs to know that Wichita, where I grew up, had a very small Jewish population. Within two-hundred and fifty thousand people, there were only fifteen other Jewish kids my age in town. Half of them were girls. Almost all of them had been born In Wichita. We knew each other as long as we could remember and were not interested in dating each other. Therefore, we had two choices. Date non-Jews or not date. My best friend and I made a pact for the latter but once I entered Hillel the whole situation changed.
There were so many Jewish guys! All of them were interested in dating. And some of them even wanted to ask me out. It was a heady experience and I was new at the game. So when one guy, who I will call Eddie, asked me out and I didn’t really want to go, but didn’t want to hurt his feelings, I didn’t know what to do.
The first time I told him I had to study, but it was Saturday night and I really had all day Sunday to prepare for my test. Another time I told him I was going to visit my friend’s grandmother and as soon as I hung up the phone I begged my friend to take me out to her family farm. The third time he called I was out of excuses and agreed to meet him for an early evening ice cream date. He obviously wasn’t from the school of big spenders.
I can’t really say why I didn’t want to go out with Eddie. He was a nice enough guy even though he was rather overweight with bright red hair. Perhaps my hesitation came from the fact that I had already met my future husband and even though we weren’t dating (see What Could Be Good About Second Degree Burns, October, 2012) I compared every boy I met to him.
Still, I dressed nicely for our date and met Eddie at the right time outside the nearby Baskin Robbins. There was a problem, though. Baskin Robbins closed early on Sundays and we arrived just as they locked the door. Eddie banged on it pleading mercy but he was ignored. And that was when everything went downhill. Angrily Eddie struck out at the nearest object. No, thank G-d, it wasn’t me. It was the trash can! In his temper he knocked it over spilling dirty napkins, wooden spoons, plastic straws, and the like all over the sidewalk.
I was appalled! I may not have returned to another ecological meeting but I could not sanction littering. Totally embarrassed I righted the trash can, bent down, and began gathering its contents. His rage over and now utterly sheepish, Eddie told me to stop. He would take care of it. We worked together, silently cleaning up the sidewalk. And then he walked me home. He never asked me out again. I have no idea where he is today.
In time my husband began seeing me as more than a friend. We married and he began a scrap business similar to the one his father had. It evolved over the years into recycling and now he is a respected environmentalist. I still collect recyclable plastic, glass, and paper and still have dreams of changing the world. Now, though, I believe as important as recycling is, the best way to improve the world is by observing the Torah.