Deitz spearheads cleanups of the branch of the Tuscarawas River that runs through the heart of Massillon - efforts that have removed dozens of discarded tires and endless pounds of trash from the water.
He describes the cleanups as doing “God’s work.”
It is a form of mission, not the arm’s-length, somewhere-else kind, but the kind that is no less needed.
Deitz told GateHouse Media Ohio reporter Samantha Ickes he is moved by how many volunteers and local businesses have stepped forward to help.
It confirms that some people understand the secret of life is doing good for others, and that we are the ones who must ride to our own rescue.
Deitz’s decision to act also reminds us that we individuals have the power to change things, and we either can allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the challenges every community faces or we can be that one person who’s willing to try to make the village a better place.
It’s all connected
I think of Caiti Waks and Elizabeth Lacey Hoover, co-founders of the Ohio Ocean Foundation, which conducts creek cleanups in Stark County, because all bodies of water - all of them - are connected to the ocean.
If the oceans go south, so do we.
Through its urban farms and farmers markets, StarkFresh is addressing the problem of “food deserts” in Stark County’s inner cities, where people don’t need an in-store wine bar as much as they need access to healthy and affordable food.
I think of Betty Smith, founder of the EN-RICH-MENT music program for kids, which incorporates community gardens into its summer activities.
In southeast Canton, historic Rowland Cemetery has acquired new life, so to speak, through an army of volunteers who took it upon themselves to preserve its history.
Local foundations, the numerous neighborhood groups who advocate for their communities and so many others prove there are things we all can do that don’t require hand-holding by the government.
Lilies of the field
That said, local governments could make it easier by making more public trash receptacles available, and not just downtown.
They could work in partnership with local colleges and universities to create competitions and/or programs to incentivize new ideas for dealing with the problem. Somewhere, there’s a 30-something genius who’s on the verge of figuring it out, someone who just needs some support.
Communities could create “litter divisions,” which also could serve as an entryway for young adults interested in public service and the environment.
But there are some things government simply cannot do. It can’t make you care about where you live. We have to change a culture that sees nothing wrong with dumping tires or tossing a cup out a car window.
You don’t realize the harm littering does to a community until you visit places where people don’t do it.
Jon Deitz isn’t an outlier. All of us have a calling to care for the Earth. As someone put it, “There is no ‘Planet B.’”
Certainly, we can make ourselves more worthy of the beauty the lilies of the field bestow upon us.
Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @cgoshayREP.