It was last year at school. I was talking to some Grade 5 students, kids I didn’t really know because I worked with the Grade 6’s. I told them that I often walk down the main street in my village of Belmont to have breakfast at the Diner. And there’s just so much garbage on the lawns, sidewalks and gutters. I felt like taking a plastic bag with me and picking up the litter.
Two boys – “Trevor” and “Jeremy” – challenged me to do it. I said I would, and I followed through – twice. Then I convinced myself to forget all about it. I’d occasionally remember over the next several months, but I never again pulled a bag out of the closet.
That was last year. This spring I’ve been consistently unconscious about the whole thing, until last weekend, when I was sorting through reams of paper that had accumulated. I came upon a grocery receipt. On the back, in my handwriting, were three words: garbage, Trevor, Jeremy.
I gulped. I had forgotten that they were the two kids who challenged me. On Tuesday, I approached them and fessed up to my lack of commitment. They nodded. I said that I’d be walking down Main Street to the Diner on Thursday morning and promised that, unlike my history, I would do what I said I would do.
Thursday morning was this morning. Two plastic bags found their way into my coat pocket and I set off. I was scared, which made no sense. I figured out that I was worried about what people would think, seeing me stooped over on their lawn. I said that I’d have mitts on because of the cold, and it would be too awkward to pick things up. Then I agreed to do it, but set a limit – max of 50 items each way. And what was that about?
I shook my head at the foibles that were issuing forth and walked down Robin Ridge Drive towards Main Street. Paper, plastic bottles, plastic wrap, plastic ties, cardboard and shingles all found their way to the bottom of the bag. I got emotionally stronger as each item descended, and by the time I was approaching the restaurant I didn’t give a hoot about what anybody thought. Hey, for all I know, there were folks applauding from their cars.
A garbage can stood serenely outside of the Diner. Forty-two pieces of society, and one torn plastic bag, were deposited by a Belmont resident. I smiled.
On the way home, the other side of the street beckoned. I picked up fifty-nine examples of flotsam and jetsam by the time I reached my porch.
How silly to be so worried. How happy to be so contributing. And tomorrow morning I’ll hold up a sign to Jeremy and Trevor which will simply say … 101. Good for me.