Friday, October 12, 2007

Giving Something Back

I've always had a 'thing' about litter. Seeing nature desecrated by human trash always upsets me. As a child, I used to organize my friends into 'litter patrols' and we'd go around the neighborhood with a wagon and pick up all the litter. I was kind of a bossy kid, I'm afraid. I 'organized' my friends into a lot of activities, whether they wanted to do them... or not! :)

As an adult, my interest in litter control is as strong as ever.

Whenever I go to the ocean for a vacation, I always take trash bags and I spend at least a couple hours picking up litter on the beach.

On hikes, I've been known to get into some precarious situations getting the water bottles or snack rappers tossed off the trail by careless or thoughtless hikers. I take the pack it in/pack it out principle very, very seriously.

I once went wading into Lake Crescent, up by Port Angeles, WA to retrieve a discarded beer can. The water appeared to be 2 feet deep. The water in this particular lake is crystal clear, however, and the can was actually 4 feet under the surface of the water! It was winter, and I emerged from the icy water soaked to the skin! I had to make the 3+ hour drive home soaking wet and very cold. Restoring my little corner of the lake to its pristine majesty was worth each and every shiver that I experienced!

I still pick up litter. I like to set that example for other people. I've done it in Jerusalem, and I've done it in 'anytown' USA. I like to feel that I'm giving something back to a 'place' for 'welcoming me.' That is always in my heart when I'm picking up litter.

One time, I was staying in a house (for a workshop) in a very depressed and run down neighborhood in Virginia. I was there for a week. There was a lot of litter in the neighborhood and I decided that my last day there, I would spend 2 hours cleaning up the block that I was staying on. It would be my 'thank you' for being allowed to live there for a week.

I went out with my bags and started picking up trash. I worked my way down one side of the street. All the homes were old and not very well kept up, except for one. It was a meticulously groomed little house, with a beautiful flower garden. The entire yard was surrounded by a little white picket fence. As I approached this lovely little house an elderly couple came out and smiled at me. I told them they had a beautiful yard. They thanked me. Then, the old man said, "Thank you for what you are doing!" I smiled back at him and kept working.

I got a lot of 'curious' stares that day. People didn't know what to make of me, out there, picking up bottles, cans, papers, wrappers and all manner of trash. As I looked back over the areas I had cleaned up, I felt motivated and inspired to keep going.

A couple of people asked me why I was doing what I was doing. I actually really love it when that happens. I get the chance to explain. In this case, I talked about how much I appreciated being able to stay in their neighborhood while I was taking my class, and I just like to say 'thank you' in some way. I also really am bothered by litter, so it seems like a great way to merge my two goals. Some 'get it' and others look at me like I'm crazy. That's OK with me... I'm used to that! :)

I always think about the fact that I never know who I might influence by my 'crazy' behavior. We all impact each other every day... and I'd just as soon have my influence be positive whenever possible! I will never know if or how I've influenced people, but I know the chances are greater if I'm 'out there' doing things, rather than sitting alone in my house bemoaning the fate of the world!

The neighborhood looked great when I got done. I pleased the elderly people and amused several others who witnessed my work. Some might have thought it was cool. Some might have thought I was stupid. Who knows, some kid might 'adopt' my litter patrol passion and keep it up. One never knows.

Next time you are enjoying a place, give it some thought. How might you express your appreciation for the fact that this place exists... and that you are there? Picking up that empty soda can might just be the answer!

No comments: