Transforming America: Pick up some trash!

America the Beautiful.     the grand canyon / march 2008 / (c) bob traupman 2008.  all rights reserved.

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

This post would have some ugly pictures on it if I displayed what I am talking about.

There is something very simple each and every one of us  can do to transform our country:  Pick up a handful of trash when we get out of our car and dispose of it properly.  I do that all the time.  It’s a way of being humble. Being a servant.  More about that in a moment.

Yesterday evening I asked to speak to two different store managers about the trash and cigarette butts strewn along the front of their stores.  I have calmed down a bit in the year’s time I have been observing this practice.  I now am gentle about it and ask the manager to step outside with me.  i ask them if they have pride in their (our) country.  And if they do, why don’t they take pride in their store?

In October 2007 I took the side roads all through the south to my favorite monastery in Berryville, Virginia where I was to make my annual priest’s retreat.  Years ago, I remember there was trash everywhere.  This time there was hardly any.  I visited hundreds of small towns and scenic roads in between.  The simple beauty of trash-free roads was exhilarating.

I believe the earth is sacred.  The earth sustains us.  It holds us up and provides all of our resources.  It should be treated with reverence and respect. In fact, we should love the earth.  It is our Mother.  We came from her and will return to her.  We should teach our children never to drop a candy wrapper or a cigarette butt on the ground. We should be good boy scouts or girl scouts take responsibility for our own trash and if other’s won’t, then we can’t just leave the mess; that’s a reflection on us too!

So do you get the point?  Transforming our Nation is everybody’s job.  We all can pitch in and do very simple things.

But many of us say, “That’s somebody else’s job to pick up trash.”  Yeah, maybe .  But if somebody else isn’t gonna do it, then I will.  I carry an extra bag around with me in the morning when I walk Shivvy to pick up a few bits of trash along the way.

You could do that too.  Take a plastic bag along when you are out walking or pick up a handful when you go into a store.

And you know what?  That is a very spiritual exercise. It’s an exercise in humility.  The word humility comes from the Latin humus which means muck. We learn how to be godly people not by looking up but by looking down.  To the earth.  To the muck of our lives (and God knows there’s plenty of that!) and clean some of it up.  One handful (one soul-ful) at a time.

My parents taught me that no human activity is unworthy work.  In 1983, when I got out of treatment for drugs and alcohol addiction and bipolar illness in 1983, the only job I could get was as a housekeeper in one of D.C.’s cavernous hotels.  There I was a 40 year old priest I was on leave of absence at the time) scrubbing toilets and making beds.  And that was exactly what I needed to be doing because it whittled away at my ego and is one of the poignant stories I will tell when I get to writing my manuscript I’m Here: The journal of a priest with bipolar disorder.

The practical point: Each of us can find creative ways to take pride in our county, to beatify it by planting flowers and making sure that our blocks and neighborhood stores are spiffy and shiny bright.  The spiritual lesson: We have to look down to the ground and then as lowly persons we will be lifted up.  Now that’s a riddle for us to think about.

One thought on “Transforming America: Pick up some trash!

  1. Michele January 15, 2009 / 2:44 am

    Amazing. I paraphrased much of what you wrote here (regarding garbage, the sanctity of earth, gift from God, etc) when I chastised my 4 year old daughter earlier today, for carelessly tossing a small plastic bag onto the ground. I explained how God created all things for us specifically, and that we are merely borrowing it while we are here on earth.

    I had not yet read your blog.

    (that’s what’s so amazing!)

    I just bookmarked your site so I can stay tuned, so to speak.

    Thank you Father Bob.

    Thanks again.

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