It was August 19, 2017. As an American of South Asian descent, it had been a painful week for Jay -- and for the country in general. The Saturday prior, white nationalists and counter-protesters clashed violently in Charlottesville.
"It was a tough week to be a person of color in America. I talked to my friends and family on the phone a lot. As we watched the news, there were feelings of sadness combined with helplessness."
Then Jay came to Inglewood, CA to build a playground.
"I think it's easy to feel overwhelmed by today's news. But I realized that when a sense of helplessness sets in, it's a sign to put some good back into the world. After such a tragic week, working together with people of different races, religions, ages and backgrounds all to build a playground for kids was such a cathartic experience that gave me hope."
Jay shoveled mulch into the new playspace. He was working alongside people he'd never met, but it felt as though he'd known them for a long time. After a week of emotional withdrawal, Jay was beginning to feel like himself again.
As the mulch pile got smaller, a spirit of camaraderie grew with the other volunteers.
Then, across the playground, he saw a familiar face. It was Jermaine; an old friend he had worked with a few years back.
"It was so fun to see him. We caught up and I asked him what had prompted him to volunteer that day. Turns out that as a kid, he had gone to the school where we were building the playground -- Parent Elementary School -- and was pumped to help the current students get their first real playground."
The old friends worked side-by-side, chatting and laughing for hours. At the end of the day, they joined the full team of volunteers for the ceremonial ribbon cutting to celebrate the completion of the brand new playground they'd helped to build together.
"I underestimated how cathartic it would be to do something so basic as shovel mulch. To be part of a team of people coming together to physically build something for kids." said Jay. "It was medicine."