Overall, I think what we did as a class was incredible. The entire process, although difficult, ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life. I will never forget this class and the people that I met at the Middletown Water & Sewer Department.
My first day shadowing the employees at HQ was intimidating to say the least. I had no idea what to expect from these guys and was unsure of what I was even doing there. As soon as I stepped foot into their lounge area, I heard a roar of laughter and chatter. They were talking to each other from across the room, yelling, chuckling, and cracking jokes. I introduced myself to a couple of them and then stood in the corner watching them and smiling. They ended up being a lively and positive group of people to be with, even at 7 o’clock in the morning.
I think the most important thing that I took away from this class was how important it is to make city workers feel appreciated for all the hard work that they do, day after day, no matter what the weather is like or how they are feeling that day. A recurring theme throughout the days at HQ was “out of sight, out of mind,” this idea of what it is like to feel underappreciated by your community. Most of the guys would tell me stories of being yelled at for taking a break or getting glares every time they stepped foot into Dunkin Donuts.
I think breaking down the stigma of what it is like to work at a sewer department was one of the most important things we did as a class and as outsiders coming into this situation. Seeing the faces of Middletown residents watching the employees perform was rewarding and special. Rickie’s parents told me that they never even knew the details of what Rickie did everyday for his work and they were so happy to finally see him in action.
As I was saying goodbye to Rickie, one of the employees who I worked with the most throughout this entire experience, he told me something I hope I will never forget. He said “No matter where you go in life, stay positive. That is what you should always do because even if you end up working a job you never expected you would working at, you’re still happy within yourself and that is what’s most important.”
So, thank you to all the employees who welcomed us, treated us like family, and gave us a way to appreciate all of you.