Top Ten Insights for 20-Somethings From an Anacostia Cemetery Worker

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Top Ten Insights for 20-Somethings From an Anacostia Cemetery Worker

Maya Kosover

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_John Shackelford has been the supervisor at Ohev Sholom Cemetery for 15 years. The 73-year-old Anacostia native mostly ignored my questions about his experiences at the cemetery and instead chose to enlighten me—a 20-something aspiring journalist who apparently need some guidance—with life advice._

*1. Living a “street life” ain’t so glamorous.*

“Living the street life supposedly teaches you how to ‘do people.’ Look around: All you’ll be doing is time.”

*2. Be honest. Always.*

“An exciting truth will always go farther than an exciting lie.”

*3. History is not dead. Appreciate it.*

“There are a lot of books on Anacostia that might tickle your funny bone… There’s a lot of history out here in Southeast, and a lot of these youngsters don’t know nothing.”

*4. Any time you can get a family together, it’s a blessing.*

“Every time my family gets together for the holidays, we roll in with a rented bus and everything.”

*5. Don’t settle for jobs in construction, landscaping or janitorial services.*

“Any young person take a job like this… well, there’s something he can do better. And if he does come around, Imma work the hell out of him.”

*6. Think about being an accountant.*

“If you find out you’re not cut out for [journalism], think about being an accountant.”

*7. Have kids, and have them now.*

“Right now as a young [person], you do you and start gettin’ to the spot. But pretty soon you’re gonna have to start raising your kids – you gotta do your eight hours at work and come home.”

*8. Don’t sacrifice your love of the game for more money.*

“These guys makin’ all this money, they don’t seem to be playin.’ I mean, really playin.’ They’ve got no heart in the game and it’s not about winning anymore. Now, it’s about come the 15th or the 30th of the month, they have a check waitin’ in the bank.”

*9. You need three kinds of education: school, religion and home upbringing.*

“No education, ain’t nothing left for you.”

*10. Ghosts aren’t real, but spirits are.*

(After Shackelford’s 15 years of working in a cemetery, I had to ask.)

“A ghost is something you can see in your awakened life, some image coming out of some mud hole in the ground. I haven’t seen one of those yet. But a spirit – that’s something you feel. Kinda like what we’re doing now. You feel a spirit when you can relate to somebody.” •

_Photo by Maya Kosover._