Earth day is in April. It is a day intended to draw our attention to the beauty and the woes of our planet. Given the steady stream of news reports highlighting some of the worst extreme weather events on record, the constant flow of data courtesy of our scientific community and the push to go “green” from a number of environmental groups, Earth day should be everyday. I try to do my part. It is a small part in the scheme of things. I don’t have the funds nor the time nor the power and influence to contribute all that I would like to contribute. But I do what I can and I rely on everyone else to do what they can. If a lot do a little, it adds up you see. It will make a difference.
Each month I encourage – no, I demand – that my kids give back to the community in one way or another. I orchestrate some sort of project, event or chore in which I fully expect them to participate with great enthusiasm. They are kids though, and sometimes my demands are met with a bit of resistance in anticipation of whatever it is that we (and by we, I mean I) plan on doing that month. But it never fails… once they are knee deep in it, they enjoy it!
Our community services are meager in the scheme of things. We have packed food for Feed My Starving Children, we have run through the neighborhood to collect shoes for Share Your Soles, my kids have requested donations for a particular charity in lieu of birthday gifts, we’ve baked for bake sales that benefit a local cause, etc. But in April we always focus our attention on the litter in our neighborhood. My kids and I take our recycle and garbage bins and we wander through the neighborhood and adjacent park and pick up trash.
My kids are good sports about this. In fact, this year we took one of their friends along on our grubby, potentially embarrassing adventure. Grubby is self-explanatory, but potentially embarrassing may warrant an explanation. You see, as we saunter down the sidewalks, we draw attention to ourselves with our noisy bins. As we pass the homes of classmates, friends and acquaintances, my kids are forced to smile and wave at them with their filthy, gloved hand while the classmates, friends and acquaintances look on with obvious confusion (did you get in trouble and is this your punishment?) or ridicule that is either implied or expressed (ha ha, you have to pick up trash while I play basketball). My kids have yet to protest and/or respond to such things. Either they are oblivious or they have risen above caring what other people think. I would like to believe the latter to be true.
Every time we do this, I find myself dumbfounded at the lack of care and responsibility some people take with regard to their own property. We have picked up garbage out of people’s yards that I know has been there for weeks. I drive past it everyday wondering when they might finally pick up the crushed Gatorade bottle that has been laying in their front yard forever. This year was the year of phone books. Our neighborhood had phone books delivered in about February. Now I cancelled our phone book in an effort to be green. To me, they are obsolete and a waste of paper. But, some people may not be aware that they can simply call a number inside the front cover of the phone book to cancel it. I realize some people still utilize their phone books, but there were three houses in our small neighborhood where we found the phone book still laying alongside their mailbox posts. The grass underneath them was dead and brown and despite the plastic bag it was in, the pages of the phone book were soggy and illegible. Now, how hard is it to bend at the waist, grab a hold of the plastic bag, lift and then deposit the bag and its contents in the recycle bin? I mean, they are there daily checking their mail anyway, right? There were two teenaged boys playing basketball in their driveway when we picked up their phone book and two newspapers. I asked them, as I held up the dripping phone book, “Do you guys care if we toss these?” They said no and that was it. Not even a thank you. Not even a shameful glimmer in their eye. I chalk it up to complete and utter disregard for curbside appeal and pride in ownership, let alone being a good neighbor and friend of the Earth.
I also find myself cussing under my breath when we walk along the main thoroughfare (on a walking path of course – I would never risk walking on, near or alongside a road, especially with kids). I can’t count how many McDonald’s bags, beer cans, cigarette packs and butts, beverage containers, etc. that were obvious refuse missiles launched from passing cars. Grrrr. And every year thus far, we have found at least one bag full of dog crap laying in the weeds or alongside the curb or sidewalk that someone left behind (they went through the trouble of picking it up, but didn’t want to carry it apparently). I DON’T GET IT! Are we that averse to inconvenience that we seek conveniences in careless and thoughtless behaviors?
Before I go on a tangent, I will conclude this post on a positive note. I am super proud of my kids for putting up with me and my causes. I am trying to instill in them a sense of community, responsibility, philanthropy and self-respect as well as respect for others and things – like our planet. And I am doing this by example and by immersing them in experiences. I hope these experiences will inspire them to be good people so that when they mature and develop their own views and focus on their own causes, they will do so with ACTION. And I would like to note that my intention for posting on this topic is not to toot my own horn or boast about the good deeds we do. Instead, I am hoping to motivate others to do the same. Sometimes we just get caught up in the routine of our busy lives and we just don’t think to dance outside of our daily groove. It happens to me too, but I am on some email lists that keep me on my toes;)