I was mad…
I had been picking up trash… litter… is the nice word for the debris scattered alongside the road near our home in the country. The first day I gathered three large garbage bags in about two hours.
What kind of people would throw their half eaten lunch, container and all, to the corn fields? Why do people finish a coke or beer and toss the can out a car window? Oh, I stalked angrily while collecting the junk of society.
Corn fields line the country lane around us, and as Tom and I walked one evening, we make a comment about the litter. “I can surely pick this up quickly—do my part in cleaning up the area.” I committed to the task.
I determined to find all the meanings of litter after my first day of collecting; I wanted to know the definition of what I was gathering. Would you believe 132 words related to litter? Some are good like jambalaya and stew! But did not include the meaning of litter as a stretcher to carry someone or for a bunch of puppies.
I gave no further thought to the words used for the garbage on the highway…
The next morning, I had two large trash bags in hand, preparing to be mad again. I have no idea what happened. I picked up a can crushed by tires, and it was as though I was holding a piece of tattered humanity. I continued lifting broken bottles, smashed aluminum cans as tears blinded the dirt from my eyes.
Riffraff, castoffs, rejects, rubble, unwashed… whispered words came to mind as I plucked each item of scrap. Picking up cups, plastic bags, I imagined stories of heartbreak. I was no longer angry; I had experienced a lesson in seeing a world of throwaways.
Four days later, seven bags of worthless trash were on the way to the county dump. At the end of the week, I had stuffed a total of 12 bags. The area cleared of litter was 200 yards in both directions from our driveway. All that waste within sight of our home.
Over 51 billion pieces of litter are left on roadways in the United States each year. (Keep America Beautiful website.) That number seems about right with my bag totals.
Today the roadside is clear of any obvious sign of clutter. I breathe deeply. But the task is far from finished. It is when I stepped into the ditch between the cornfields and the pavement, I discovered much more worthless rubbish. You can’t see the muck and mire hiding in the ditch… I had to feel it…
The thread of Jesus’ compassion weaves throughout the pages of the New Testament. … for the homeless, the abused, the blind, the depressed, the hungry, the sick. I am to bloom in the midst of the potpourri of hurting people.
“Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” Matthew 8:3 “When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’” Luke 7:13
These mornings, I take a heavy duty screw driver to lift the buried ruins beneath the mud. It is the strangest thing; it is as if I am rescuing the wreckage of society. I wonder if I even realize how to encourage, how to help the broken and crushed I have met along my journey. I am reminded of the many beggars who touched my life on the trams and trains in Vienna. Did I share hope? I gave them a Euro, but did I give anything of me?
Two nights after the 12 bags were gone, Tom and I watched the KOMO News Documentary: Seattle is Dying. Coincidence? Such blatant brokenness… I had never witnessed such litter with a compassionate heart. I cried as I watched grown men rolling, stumbling, wallowing on the sidewalk, unable to stand… as the masses rushed by them. I thought of Jesus gathering chicks under His wing (Matthew 23:37) or touching the lepers of His day.
There are issues… way too many to address here; nor is it my purpose to do so; I only know I will NEVER see a piece of trash on the road in the same way. It will be a reminder that too many people need to be lifted, must be loved … without judging… or anger…
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ you are forgiven.” Ephesians 4:32
Unbelievable that there are some people who would just walk past something like that and wouldn’t even bother to pi, but you were kind enough to do as the Lord told you.
We need more people like U.
I really enjoyed reading this. It makes me stop and think and desire to be more understanding.
Thank you, Barb. Your ‘epistle’ helps to rethink the litter problem in the world. At least in my case…..
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I’ve often thought this is the way the world looked to Jesus as He prepared to leave heaven and come down to His creation…..littered by the sins of mankind and smelled of hate and erosion. Yet He came to redeem us and offer a place in heaven to be with Him and His Father God forever where there will never be the results of sin ever again. What a mighty love He gives…..free of charge! Glad your anger turned to compassion Barb. For God so loved the world…….
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Barb, On the one hand, sad and on the other, filled with love and compassion for the desperately needy and hurting. How quickly you applied the Word of God. Indeed, there are two sides to every situation; the temporal and the Eternal.
This was the most amazing story. You took a completely nasty clean up & made it a “gift from God” in showing you humility in its finest.
Reminded me of the TV commercial from years ago (I am showing my age) of the Indian with tears in his eyes looking along roadside of liter & debris.
How soon we can all forget those “little things” & I will never think of that/these roadsides but be reminded of your story.😁
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Thank you so. And I am continually reminded of those broken hearts I must never forget. Just saw two pieces of litter on way in today.