Picked up trash in our neighborhood with my daughter tonight.
I started picking up trash in our neighborhood not for any noble intent, but simply because I was tired of garbage lining our streets. McDonald’s wrappers, liquor bottles, and a few rather disgusting things littered the ditches and curbs. It was not bad, but it was ugly.
Located near the trash trifecta of The Dollar Tree, McDonald’s and Starbucks, this bus stop was always dirty. I could not drive by without seeing someone’s discarded food containers or plastic wrappings.
Not only being disgusted but motivated as well, one Sunday morning I picked up all the garbage at the stop and stuffed it into a giant contractor trash bag. It overflowed when I was done. I lugged it the three or four blocks back to our house which gave me an appreciation for what a garbage truck must feel like.
The next day, I drove by the bus stop feeling particularly proud of my efforts. However, much to my dismay, my clean bus stop was littered with two fresh soda cups. In my heart I knew that the bus stop would get dirty again, but that rational thought did not make me feel any better on that dreary and raining morning. I went back several times over the next few weeks, each time with the same results. I would pick up the trash, then find more the next day.
This cycle repeated itself until one day I had the bright idea to tie a big trash sack to the bus stop. I was not sure what would happen, but I thought that it could not be much worse. I was pleasantly surprised that the stop stayed relatively clean for most of the next two weeks. I watched as the bag filled up and eventually came back to replace it, lugging that heavy load back to our house. Although the bag was heavy I felt better about my efforts because I was seeing results.
Again, the cycle repeated itself. I’d put a bag out, it would fill, and I would replace it.
I pointed it out to my son and told him the story. He asked me if I thought that what I did made a difference. I did not know then, and I do not know today.
I do not know who put the barrel at the bus stop. I do not know who maintains it. I don’t know if the barrel was scheduled to be installed and just happened to get delivered after I started cleaning it up. I don’t know if someone noticed my bags and decided to do something about it.
Whatever the reason, I feel proud to know that in some small, roundabout way, my actions made a difference.
And the bus stop remains clean to this day.
(Thanks to Linda Cohen for first writing about this on her inspiring blog)