The best lesson ever

May 10, 2020
Sejal Choksi-Chugh
by Sejal Choksi-Chugh

Schools are shuttered through the summer, and summer camps will likely be closed, too. Quarantine fatigue has set in around my house. While homeschooling comes with lots of challenges, there’s been at least one unexpected personal delight: my kids have become more engaged in my work than ever and a lot more interested in the Bay.

My son cheered loudly from his desk when he overheard that Baykeeper was awarded funding under the federal SBA payroll protection program. My daughter surprised me by creating an animated video about Baykeeper stopping polluters (which we’ll share in an upcoming email!). And they occasionally pop onto my Zoom meetings to say hi to the Baykeeper team and share a knock-knock joke… or three.

I've been wondering lately what life lessons they’ll take away from these unpredictable times. I don’t mean the small stuff—we’re definitely creating a whole generation of handwashing germaphobes—I mean the revelations that can come from difficult times.

I was close to my daughter’s age when I went on a family trip to India and felt the injustice of polluted water making people sick in my dad’s hometown. I was about my son’s age when the industrial facility that spewed toxic dust on my school showed me how close to home injustice could strike.

These experiences have led me to seventeen years with Baykeeper, holding industrial polluters accountable and fighting for clean water. And I've been inspired to explore experiences with my kids that will help them find their passions, too.

Sadly, our shared experiences at this unusual moment are mostly of shutdowns, face masks, and social distancing. But there's also much to learn from the Bay itself: regardless of how difficult times have become, the Bay keeps flowing. I’m cheered by the thought of inspiring my children with that kind of resilience.

When we finally emerge from our seclusion, I’d like to hope our new normal will be a little different—not just for my family, but for the whole Bay Area.

We'll have many new things in common with our neighbors. Every person we see on the street, or in the grocery store, will have endured the same isolation as us, and the same anxieties. We'll all be excited to be outdoors again, without restrictions.

We’ll also have the Bay, which has been our resilient companion throughout the pandemic—only we might appreciate it in a new light, as the living symbol of our common bond.

Perhaps we’ll realize that our collective actions can improve the health of our Bay and our planet, in the same way that our collective actions now (wearing masks and keeping our distance) are helping to protect the health of the people we love, and those in our community.

And if that changed perspective becomes our new normal, it would be the best lesson ever: We're all on this beautiful planet together, and together we can make it better.

I’m happy to share below two stories submitted by you—our supporters—that reflect the value of experiences on the Bay. And in case you’re looking for ways to keep your kids busy, I’m including a few Baykeeper activities my son created in his free time.

Cheers to moms around the Bay!

Sejal's signature
Sejal Choksi-Chugh
Executive Director

The great equalizer

Kim Chambers in the Bay

On chilly San Francisco mornings, I sometimes feel a pang of hesitation about getting into the Bay for my daily swim. But then, invariably, one of my fellow swim club members—an octogenarian named Mimi comes to mind—will wade nonchalantly into the frigid waves like it was a kiddie pool.  

With inspiration like that, how could I not get in the water?

No matter who you are, or what your motivation is for getting into the water, the Bay is a great equalizer. No human can control this wild and beautiful body of water. The sublime deference that we experience in the Bay as swimmers is what binds us together as a community.  

When we finally emerge from this crisis, I think we will be blessed with a deeper sense of gratitude for the Bay, and for each other, than ever before.  

- Kim Chambers, marathon open water swimmer, Dolphin Club & South End Rowing Club member


When I first moved to the Bay Area 20 years ago, wildlife sightings in the Bay were much rarer, particularly of mammals. But about 13 years ago I spotted a beautiful albino harbour porpoise from my boat. He was very distinctive because of his unusual color, and people all over the Bay recorded sightings. For me, "Mini-Moby" (as he was later named) marked the beginning of a resurgence of wildlife in the Bay. In the years since, I've seen porpoises near Crissy Field and in the Oakland estuary, and I frequently spot dolphins and whales from my boat. Native oysters are starting to crop up, too—something I never saw in my first decade living here.

But that albino porpoise was really a catalyst for me, sparking a keen interest in Bay wildlife that continues to this day.

- Captain Heather Richard

Bay-themed activities for kids

Click here to view, download, and print three Bay-themed activities for you and your kids to play at home, created by Dilon Chugh! 

Bay games

Photo of Sejal by Gail Odom

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