Citizen Ray

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I always wondered about celebrities who were hospitalized for exhaustion, but maybe this was how they felt. My eyes hurt from supporting the weight of my drooping eyelids, and I was pretty sure I couldn’t flip to the next page of the agenda as instructed even if I wanted to. School was long and draining, and today had been a particularly grueling practice at field hockey. I didn’t even want to think about the piles of homework sitting on my desk at home. And yet the Youth Commission meeting had only just started. I wanted to go home and crawl into bed, not discuss the youth involvement in the annual holiday parade, much less listen to the rants of Ray D.

Ray D. came to every meeting of every commission. The local papers characterized him as “a thorn in the sides of public officials” and “open, honest, overactive, and pessimistic.” He gave himself the title of “Citizen Ray” and even wore a customized baseball cap with this name emblazoned on the front. He came to the Youth Commission meetings and fumed about unsafe bike lanes and noise complaints, even though they had nothing to do with our duties and we could do nothing about them. He always went over the two-minute limit for guest speakers, and would not cease speaking until one of us would meekly tell him his time was up, sometimes after ten minutes if he was particularly impassioned.

After countless nights of staying up into the wee hours finishing work because of meetings that ran late, largely due to distractions provided by Citizen Ray, I began to resent his presence. Why did he waste his time with the Youth Commission, when we couldn’t even help him with all of his issues? After all, we planned youth forums and relayed information about the town government to our peers; we didn’t fix potholes or give out building permits like he seemed to need.

It took me months of working on the commission to finally understand the motivations of Citizen Ray. Most people in their late seventies are happy to leave the workplace and bask in the relaxation provided by retirement. Ray D., however, considered retreating into the background as a violation of his duties as a citizen. It was his job to participate in the public good. His efforts, while eccentric, should be admired, not resented. After all, Ray is motivated, dedicated, and ambitious, much like me. He is a former businessman, a field in which I plan to pursue and I hope to excel at. Ray’s qualities of persistence and determination would prove valuable in any field of study or work, and I realized that I should value his presence. Even after I left the Youth Commission, Ray’s ideals stuck with me. I interned at the Town’s Planning Department, a place where Ray’s wrath was often felt the most, and learned even more about the inner workings of my community. I volunteered my time to the Freshman Skills Day program at my school in order to help the younger students adjust to the sometimes dangerous environment of high school. I tried to fulfill my civic duty, just as Ray had always done.
While I don’t plan on aggravating city council members as a grandmother, I do plan on reflecting Ray’s unrelenting spirit in all my future efforts. He profoundly impacted my perspective on the endeavors of others, no matter how unusual, and motivated me to never stop working hard for my beliefs.





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