Over the course of the last couple of weeks, Rascal and I have been going for 20-minute morning walks around the neighborhood, willing spring to show up. Along my way, I have noticed the budding tulips, the hardy hostas coming back for a new season, the flowering pink trees and the plastic water bottles, beer bottles and McDonald’s bags at my feet. There was even a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniel’s littering my pathway one morning. The beauty of spring gave way to the trash littered along my walk. I even began counting plastic water bottles. On a one-mile walk I counted 18.
Soon, my walks turned into meetings with the voice in my head that insisted we had to do something about the litterbugs. Launch an ad campaign, hire a litter rapper, build an app, reintroduce people to Iron Eyes Cody! Last Tuesday, I took pictures of the litter while I walked home so I could not only write a blog post about all about our awful neighborhood litterbugs, but so I could also show it to you. After snapping a picture of two glass beer bottles, I reached down with judgment and frustration, picked them up and threw them into the garbage. Strangely, the next thing I noticed was the lilac bushes getting ready to bloom and a really beautiful red tulip just a few feet from the beer bottles. After I snapped a picture of a McDonald’s bag, I threw it away…and noticed a bunny hiding behind a bush. Soon I was reinvested in coming of spring as I walked along…and completely forgot to write about the neighborhood litterbugs when I came home.
My morning walks have been different ever since I picked up those two beer bottles. I now make it point to pick up a couple pieces of litter on my walk. Just a few—I don’t even carry a plastic bag—and what I have noticed is that the idea of litter no longer consumes my thoughts or gets in the way of seeing the tulips or smelling the lilacs. I’ve also noticed kids using garbage cans, and one older man greeted me while bagging someone else’s left-behind litter. Before I had trashed those two beer bottles, our conversation would surely have been about trash and litterbugs, but instead it was about being grateful for the beautiful sunny day.
Perception is funny, isn’t it? The mere act of throwing away the litter I was complaining about completely changed my walk. I saw less litter and more beauty. Now, I also notice people supporting my efforts to stamp out litterbugs. I suspect launching a litter campaign would have increased the amount of litter I saw and supported my viewpoint that our neighborhood needed my campaign.
The litter wasn’t mine, but the experience of the litter was—and through my action, I changed my experience.
I have not always been a litter pacifist -Litter Fist Fight.