Other People’s Trash

I often walk the trail that follows a river that is a few minutes from my home. I am amazed at the amount of trash that other people leave. I used to get so irritated and angry at those “trashy” people. Then I realized that my anger was only causing a negative impact on my emotional well-being; it was doing nothing to impact the behavior of those who left the trash behind.

I had three choices: I could quit walking the trail, I could continue to feel anger, or I could pick up the trash. I decided that I would carry a small bag with me and pick up trash as I walked. Some of what I’ve recently picked up is pictured above. I know I won’t get it all, but I will get some of it, a small bag at a time. My anger has subsided and I feel satisfaction in cleaning up; it has become a “game” to see what different items I can find. (I have drawn the line, however, at picking up other people’s dog waste.)

Picking up other people’s trash goes against human nature. We want people to be held accountable, but unless I actually see someone littering, I will never know who the “trashy” people are. And do I really want to have confrontations on the trail? The “trashy” people don’t know that I picked up their garbage, and that’s ok.

Also, after I got over being angry, I realized that many people may not have known exactly where their child (or dog) lost that shoe, sandal, or ball, and wouldn’t have left it if they had known. We encounter a lot of trash, both tangible and intangible, throughout our lives. And all of us, whether we are aware of it or not, leave “trash” for others to deal with. Picking it up and discarding it properly is sometimes the only way to save our emotional future!

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