When I go out for my daily runs I can’t help but notice the litter that I come upon. For as long as I can remember I’d shake my head and think, “How in the world can people litter?!” but I’d carry on as usual. And then one day instead of questioning their actions I found myself questioning my LACK of action. “What’s holding me back from picking up the litter?” Absolutely nothing. When I run I rarely (if ever) run for speed so a little starting and stopping wouldn’t cramp my style. And I’m already out there so why not kill two birds with one stone? So I started picking up litter every time I go out.
At first it was a bit overwhelming. I found that everywhere I seemed to look I saw trash and had to empty my bag at any public trash can I could find. I averaged a grocery bag full for approximately each mile that I logged, and at times I’d realize that I’d have to wait until my next run to pick up what was left….a bit frustrating for a perfectionist.
I’ve found crazy things and some not-so-easy to run with items: flip flop, hat, padlock, canvas covered box, 5 gallon bucket lid, 3 ft wooden stakes, rebar…the list goes on. The items I see most are Starbucks and fast food cups, specifically styrofoam cups, lids, and straws.
I’m sure most everyone in town wonders what the heck I’m doing as I disappear into and then climb out of washes or run up and down the median with random objects in my hands and bags full o’stuff. I’ve even had a fellow runner ask me, “Already making a Walmart run today?” as I ran past with 2 full bags.
I won’t lie, there are times when I think to myself, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Like the time I ran behind a car at a stop sign and heard their car door open, ‘splash’, and them drive away. I turned around to find that they had literally littered in front (or should I say, behind) me. Really?! Or the countless times I’ve been pricked by thorny bushes or the spines of cacti. It’s no fun to run a mile with a bag of trash in one hand and cactus spines coming out of the other before getting assistance to have them removed.
Alas, rarely do I let this negativity get me down nor do I curse the world or the individuals who have dropped the trash. Instead, I remember this story….
“Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.” ― Loren Eiseley
My guess is that people may think I’m a bit crazy and fighting a losing battle. There’s no doubt that every day I go out I find more trash….but I do see a difference…and that makes it all worth it.
Keep Smiling and Be Grateful =)