Saturday, September 30, 2017

Why pick up other people's trash? Because I feel so much better when it's gone

I want to look at a yellow slug, not a yellow "M."
I pick up trash whenever I walk. And one day on my way up a
trail I found some bottles and cans that I couldn't carry up the hill, so I put them in a spot I knew I’d see on the way down. But by the time I returned, someone else had picked them up.

That was cool.

What’s even cooler is that has happened more than once, so I know it wasn’t a fluke. I also know the man hired to pick up trash at the park isn’t doing it, because he only goes up as far as he can drive. So it’s up to us hikers to keep the trail up above clean, and I love knowing there are others on my trash-picking team.

Many people can't understand wanting to pick up other people’s trash, while I can’t understand how anyone can walk by litter without wanting to pick it up. I don’t care who left the litter or why. I just know that unless I pick it up, I’ll be looking at it again and again. And I don’t walk on trails to look at McDonald’s and Starbucks cups. I walk outside to look at trees and flowers.

Sometimes I wish I could just toss something on the ground and not give it another thought, like the person I saw get in their car after buying a fancy coffee drink and take one sip before tossing it out the window while driving away. But I can't throw away something I just spent money on, and I can’t litter.

And now in August of 2020, I've found that picking up trash is one of the few things that gives me any control over the world around me. Four years ago, the presidential election made me feel as if I was living in a snow globe suddenly flipped upside down. Then four months ago, nearly everything else inside that snow globe disappeared behind Covid-19 curtains.

But as long as I can still go outside and pick up trash, keeping the paths I walk every day clean, it makes me feel a bit better. And knowing there are others doing the same helps even more. Because feeling a bit of control, and a bit less alone, are things I really need right now.

Plus, I've found some great things while picking up litter, such as mushrooms and flowers I wouldn't have seen otherwise. But my favorite find was definitely a tiny frog I saw in a creek bed next to a McDonald's cup, because the frog then led me to a banana slug!