|Man and grabber in action|
He can be seen every Sabbath, walking the nearly 3 miles to our synagogue, seeking bottle-necks poking out from the thick, crisp foliage on the sidewalk. He'll trudge into a damp ditch next to the street to retrieve a carelessly-tossed Kleenex. He'll triumphantly display the shiny beer can he's clutched in his "gopher" grabber, scooped from the grassy parkway.
And, while driving in our community, he's also on the look-out for obnoxious cardboard, and fast-food wrappers tossed along the roadway. So compulsive is he about removing wayward garbage that I really must make the bumper-sticker that I've been threatening to paste on his car: "I swerve for trash."
Perhaps if the law-keeper had seen it, he might not have pounced, lights flashing, when he pulled over yesterday in a muddy narrow strip next to a tight two-lane passage. I was in the passenger seat, rolling my eyes perhaps, since my husband's many detours for toppled garage sale signs, runaway hubcaps and the like delay us whenever we go. After my husband stopped in this peculiarly-cramped spot, he leaped out of the car exclaiming, "A bottle! And a cup!"
I thought he'd said "A bottle! And a cop!" And I was right. The officer slammed his car behind us, hemming us in, because there would be no reason for anyone to pull over there--unless for nefarious purpose. When I saw the him grilling my husband, all I could do was guffaw.
After the policeman pulled away, and my husband retrieved not only the bottle and the Starbucks cup but several cigarette butts and a candy wrapper, he wryly climbed into the car...laughing.
Because after the officer ascertained that my husband was not in trouble nor planning vandalism, and he understood that the objects he was removing from his trunk were merely a plastic (recycled) supermarket bag and his gopher grabber, the response was: "Thank you."
My brilliant husband has taught me many, many things. One of them is litter awareness. I shall never walk by a discarded energy bar wrapper. While on foot, I examine my surroundings, detecting detritus partially obscured by fauna: The sparkle of aluminum foil. The glint of white notebook paper peeking from the gutter. If, while driving, I note an egregious Styrofoam carton or flyaway paper napkin, I make mental note but do not stop, since I know that after work, my husband will pass here on his way home. And swerve.
I tell you all this to ask for your help. If you're walking your dog, pick up not just his droppings but any litter you come across. If you're a jogger and see refuse in your path, take a plastic bag in your pocket, circle around and get the exercise benefit of swooping down to grab it.
Also, don't overlook the beauty in your world. Enjoy your neighborhood; enjoy the seasons, and while doing that, develop a determination that anything that detracts is an opportunity to make an improvement. Carry a plastic shopping bag you can un-wad and pop offensive litter into. Talk about litter to your kids; let them know that they can improve the environment--not by un-doing Global Warming, but by leaving the places they walk and see a bit cleaner.
This is what my husband calls "do it yourself conservatism," but I don't think that cleaning up visible garbage is "conservative" except that it conserves nature, and conserves a sense of order and calm.
One birthday, I made my husband a special present: a fluorescent orange safety vest with letters I cut out of reflective tape. Over the front chest pocket was his name. On the back, I glued, "Help me pick up litter." I wish he'd wear it, for safety's sake, but also because perhaps it would let the people watching him with his plastic bag and grabber at the side of the road know they're empowered, too.