Not So Selfish

I watched our neighbor this morning drive along the road and pick up all the cans and bottles that my children and I gathered and placed by the roadside yesterday.  I had mixed feelings about this:

1. I was excited that someone else would take the time to clean up.  We were planning to head out shortly to pick all of those up.  The children, in fact, were looking forward to it.  But someone else beat us to that.  I don’t know if they were happy we had gotten things started, or upset that we had dug the ugliness from hiding under the winter’s layers.  I hope the former.

2. I was disappointed because the children really were excited to follow up on our previous day’s project.  When I told them what was happening, and they looked out the window to see for themselves, they were disappointed as well.  But I told them we could head up the road in the other direction and they got fired up again.

Today’s haul was a lot bigger.  We walked a lot farther, for one, but there were just a lot more items to collect.  We could not carry them all there were so many, so we left another batch to be picked up by someone.  My wife walked the kids up the road while I went for a run.  I met them on my way back and she ran herself.  I carried most of the load for most of the way.  The children wanted to carry everything they collected–they each had a bag–but the bags got too heavy for the longish walk.

We picked up three dozen beverage containers and left about ten to collect later.  Over 50 empty containers.  That is just way too many.  That was in a not-quite-a-mile stretch of road.  The nutty thing is how many I saw while I was running, farther up the road–at least as many.  The idea of that many containers getting tossed makes me squinch up my forehead.

I have tossed empties out the window myself.  I am not proud to admit that.  It happened only once, when I was a teenager.  There were a few of us in a Chevy Suburban drinking beer in the back on a long drive.  The driver was clean and we were being responsible–just a couple apiece over a couple of hours.  But we were underage.  We were afraid we would get pulled over by the police for some reason, I don’t remember why, so we tossed the “evidence” to the roadside.

The thing is, that memory still haunts me.  It wasn’t my idea and I was not the one to do the tossing, but i rue my abetting that act.  I don’t even have the consolation that we were pulled over.  I try to make it up now.  I imagine who tossed these glass bottles and aluminum cans and create my own stories.  I am proud that my children are so excited to clean things up.  They do not creat such stories.  They trust my answer to their question of who would toss their trash out the window.  Sometimes it is a mistake, I tell them, and sometimes people do things we would not do ourselves.  They have entered the world of trying to understand the array of human motivations.

I can’t imagine they will ever solve that mystery.  No one ever has.  But I hope they pursue it their whole lives.  It is a mystery that offers many questions worth asking.  Those questions make the mystery worthwhile.  As a parent, I will do what I can to engage them in the mysteries of the world.  I hope all of them are not as dirty as this on

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