Dish Crews and The Great Turning: A Woolman-Style Graduation Speech
I did a lot of dish crews here at Woolman. I started out with two per week, one on Wednesday night and one on Friday after lunch. When I did a trade with Lucy, I ended up with a dish crew Thursday after lunch too. I thought I had stumbled upon a genius bargaining currency and I didn’t hesitate to trade with Daniel so that he took my bathroom cleaning and I took his lunch cleanup on Tuesdays and his Sunday night dish crew. Then I started doing spur of the moment trades when I needed some free time. My token line was “if you do my dish crew today, I’ll do two of yours next week.”
Soon my life was in shambles. I was doing up to nine dish crews every week... that sounds hard.
Somehow, though, I managed to scrape by. I realized the value of each task on dish crew. When I wanted to be out and about I was on general tidiness patrol, putting away leftovers and wiping down counters and tables. When I wanted to be fully immersed in my work I was at the sink, washing an endless stream of pans and trays and ladles. When I wanted solitude I worked the sanitizer. I’m going to miss the kitchen and the endless drudgery of cleaning up, and our group high fives at the end and how we sang as we worked. I am profoundly grateful for all of these dish crews.
As Joanna Macy describes, we have reached a great turning— the shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization. Now is when we choose to sit and watch the world unravel, dirty pots in the sinks, or whether it is time for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Woolman has given me the tools, the knowledge, helped me to explore my interests and explore my beliefs and question everything. The world needs all of us: the countertop scrubbers, the pot scrapers, the sanitizers, the moppers and sweepers. We can sing while we work, we can be joyful in the knowledge that when it comes time for us to eat that we are reaping the fruits of our labour.
We are not invincible by any means, but here we have learned to know and embrace our innate potential to create a better world. We are beautiful people precisely because we care so deeply.