Cigarette Butts

Two years ago, I was talking to two Grade 5 boys about my thrice-weekly walks down to the Belmont Diner for breakfast.

“Maybe sometime I’ll pick up garbage as I go.  That’d be good – keep Belmont clean.”

“Well, why don’t you start doing that?”

“Okay … sure.”

But I didn’t, for months.  Then one day I was sorting through some documents and I came upon a slip of paper with the kids’ names on it.  Oops.  I didn’t do what I said I’d do.  I pride myself on keeping my word, but clearly not this time.

I began making a half-hearted effort to get the job done, which amounted to picking up stuff twice over the next year.  No oomph, no commitment, no satisfaction.

I woke up one morning this spring and found myself headed to the closet where I keep plastic grocery bags.  I plucked out two.  Apparently a fire was being kindled.  On my way downtown, I found no shortage of plastic wrappers, bits of paper, tiny metal things, pieces of wood and … cigarette butts.  All the items on list were fine for pickup but not those gross little white cylinders.  Yuck!

And then one day, without thought, I started stooping for the butts.  They lay mostly in the gutters so I began to walk there, with the occasional thought that motorists will think I’m crazy.  I’d move back onto the sidewalk to avoid parked cars and to capture other butts, plus assorted flotsam and jetsam, but then I’d return to the gutter.

The yuckiness had somehow disappeared.  “Hey, I’ll wash my hands when I get to the Diner.”  And the rhythm of removing cancerous waste said hello.  My previous trips down Main Street allowed me eye contact with drivers and the occasional wave, things that I want in my life.  But now I was head down, focused on the task at hand.  And I was perfectly fine with not meeting others’ eyes for a wee part of the day.

Okay, it’s time to go for breakie.  Time for the bags.  Time for my eagle eye.

In the spirit of keeping you in suspense (and having you return to read my next post!) I’ll tell you soon about how many butts I picked up today.  I’m used to goals amounting to “more” of something.  To soothe our dear environment, today my goal is “less”.

I’m off.

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