Trash Talk

Sometimes in life there are small situations that have bigger moral implications.

I stumbled across one of those times when I was walking our dog as the sun was coming up on Saturday morning. I almost put my foot into the remains of a Cheesy Gordita Crunch Supreme as I crossed the street a couple of blocks from our house. Given the assorted burrito and nacho wrappers and dozen packets of Fire Sauce also lying in the street, I didn’t have to be much of a detective to pretty sure that it was a bunch of kids making a middle of the night Taco Bell run.

“People can be such jerks and when it comes to littering, youth is no excuse!” I said to myself as I grumbled my way through the debris to the other side of the street. “There’s nothing that looks worse on a normally tidy suburban street than spilled trash. Grrrr”¦lazy kids.” I gave Xena a strong yank on her leash and picked up the pace. Nothing like some self-righteous anger to really get my heart rate up.

As we strided up the hill, I starting running”¦well, actually it was more of a fast walk”¦through the list of potential trash collectors and how soon it might get picked up. After all, trash after it’s been run over by a few dozen cars looks even worse.

Well, first of all, there are the people who live in the houses closest to it. Their trash can is handy; they should easily be able to pick it. And I wonder how often the street sweeper comes? Or perhaps someone on their way to work will stop.

I continued on for the next few blocks wrestling with who’s responsibility it was to pick up the trash. But about halfway through our walk, I came to the conclusion that it was as much my responsibility to pick it up as anyone else’s ““ maybe even more so. After all, I live in this neighborhood and drive past this particular corner at least four times a day, taking the kids to and from school. The street sweeper? He’s just passing through. And the homeowner? He’s just the unlucky guy who happens to get an unpleasant surprise when he goes out to get his newspaper that morning.

And I also remembered Steve telling me that neighborhoods where people immediately clean up litter and graffiti prevents them from becoming targets for more serious types of illegal activity. My single act could be saving West Petaluma from urban blight!

So all the clichés of good karma, random acts of kindness, pay it forward, and good deed for the day kept rolling through my head as we headed back to the scene of the crime. Not surprisingly, the trash was still there. Xena happily licked out a nacho cheese container while I gingerly gathered up cups and wrappers, thankful that the perpetrators had tossed out the bag too so I had something to put it all in.

We walked back to the elementary school where I knew there are trash cans so I could throw it all away. And since I’m out there for the exercise, adding a little extra mileage to my walk just made it that much better. Along the way, I picked up a Skittles wrapper and a flattened Capri Sun drink, but I admit it, I just couldn’t bring myself to scoop other people’s dog poop. I tossed the bag in the trash can and headed home.

Now when we walk past that corner, it will forever in my mind be the place where I did something that really made me feel good.

I arrived home flushed with the glow that when I get to Heaven, I would have no problem accounting for my actions at 7:15 am on Saturday, February 23, 2007.


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