On a mission to Petaluma Junior High

Driving to Adobe Christian Center on Saturday morning with the windshield wipers going full speed, I couldn’t help but have the thought that it would be okay with me if I got there and they had decided to cancel the event. You see, I was on my way to join up with members of our church and other churches who are part of the City Ministries of Petaluma for a City-Wide Clean Up Day. What really sounded good was making a Starbucks stop and then heading home to get started on the long list of chores that I wanted to cross off the list.

But I and the couple hundred other people who showed up for the pre-clean up breakfast had committed to do work. In the spectrum of showing some perseverance in spite of unexpected challenges, doing some yard work in the rain is about as mild as it gets. We’re not talking Daniel and the lion’s den here.

Weeding the Polly Klaas Memorial Garden at PJHS

City Ministries of Petaluma is a coalition of 10 Christian churches throughout Petaluma that pray for one another, occasionally have a shared worship service and look for ways to serve the community as was the case with Saturday’s clean up.

The overall plan for the day was to take on some of the maintenance work at Petaluma schools that the thinly-spread custodial staff never has time or budget to take care of. School administrators had provided a list of tasks that they hoped could be done during the morning of work. Any exterior painting that had been planned wasn’t going to happen due to the rain but weed pulling, raking, trimming and general clean up could still happen.

The 50 or so members from our church, Petaluma Valley Baptist, were split into two groups; one group for Kenilworth and the group I was in was sent to Petaluma Junior High. It’s always a little confusing when to start a project with a group of volunteers until a plan of attack gets sorted out.

We were all grateful when someone who works at the school arrived to give us some direction. But hey, a weed is a weed, and given the plentiful supply of them on the grounds, it didn’t take long for us to jump in and start pulling.

I was a little hesitant about pruning the rose bushes between the upper wings of classrooms knowing that there it is an art to doing it (do you cut above or below the five leaves?) and I garden with the finesse of a lumberjack. “Is a school administrator going to arrive on Monday and any good work that we have done will be for naught because what will be noticed is that I butchered the roses?”

I decided to rely on what I’ve seen happen in front of the Petaluma Visitors Center. Once a year, a city parks & rec worker comes by with a piece of gas-powered equipment and in a matter of minutes, cuts all the rose bushes so they are about 18 inches tall. And every year, the roses seem to come back even more beautiful and fragrant than the year before.

Will the students, teachers, and administration arrive on Monday and have a reaction of “Jump back! These volunteers totally transformed the grounds – it’s never looked so good!” Probably not; it’s a big campus and there’s a lot more that needs to be done. But I know that we filled two dumpsters with branches, weeds and clippings. In the midst of the showers, we were able to shower some love on PJHS and that felt good.



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