It’s a cold sunny morning in late September. I’m just coming back from my short run in park Hvezda, arriving at the playground in front of our house in Prague’s Petriny area to stretch my legs a bit.
It’s Sunday, so even though it’s not that early (a few minutes before eight), it’s all quiet everywhere. The sky is azure blue and the green grass is already covered with a few yellow leaves fallen from the trees.
At one point however, this idyllic image is spoiled when I notice an energy bar wrapping that’s littering the ground a few meters ahead of me. Suddenly, the day is not so perfect anymore.
“These people nowadays, they can’t even carry it a few steps to the trash bin?”, I’m shaking my head in disillusion mixed with annoyance. “And I bet it will be ages until the street sweepers come and clean this up.”
Has it ever happened to you – that you were walking on a street and you saw a piece of litter? If you’re like me, maybe you had an inner dialogue that went somehow like this:
“Maybe I should pick it up?”
“No way, what if someone saw you, that would be awkward, wouldn’t it?”
“Yes, maybe it would.”
“And it will take your precious time. Do you want to waste your time cleaning after someone else?”
“I see the point, I don’t want to clean after other people.”
“Besides, there certainly is a person whose job it is to sweep the streets, so it’s none of your business.”
“But what if there isn’t a street sweeper cleaning this street? Maybe this piece of litter will just stay here forever”
“Don’t worry. The wind will blow it away somewhere else. And in a few hundred or thousand years it will dissolve anyway. So, forever is definitely an exaggeration.”
“Right. Then I guess, let’s just leave it where it is.”
“Yes. And to be on the safe side, you’d better pretend you didn’t see it at all. In case someone is watching.”
For me, this Sunday morning it went differently. Maybe it was because of the cold, maybe it was because of the endorphins flowing through my body after the run.
I remembered a talk given by my friend Mariana, where she mentioned that in Bratislava, a group of citizens called The Green Patrol (Zelena Hliadka; webpage only in Slovak language) go to pick up litter from the streets and from around the Danube river – just because they love their city and they want to have it clean.
“What if, for once, I tried to pick up this piece of litter by myself? How would that make me feel?” Yes, it was far beyond my comfort zone. But, you know – I like to challenge myself. So between the Quadriceps and Calf Stretch – I walked 4 meters ahead, picked up the piece of litter, and carried it to a trash bin standing another 3 meters away. Then I went back to the spot where I was standing before to continue with stretching my calves.
Now the view was perfect. And the best about it was – I felt like it was me who made the view perfect by making the ground one bit cleaner.
I’m wondering – maybe if there would be more people in Prague (or the place you live in) who would pick up a piece of litter when they saw it and carry it a few meters to the trash bin – maybe the world would be a bit nicer place to live.
What do you think? I know it would go way beyond your comfort zone. But how about giving it just one try?