Sidewalk Trash

After posting this on my Seedlings blog, I got to thinking. Part of why I am nameless in my community is because I don't have a big "presence" here. I give my neighbors Christmas cookies during the holidays, and that's about it.

So when my kids asked to do a trash walk today, I decided it was the community thing to do. We packed some old plastic grocery bags into the knapsack and went to the library. On the way back, we gathered enough trash to fill what you see in the pic above.

It's not like I've done anything big, I know. But I can't help remembering the words of Wendell Berry...

Small destructions add up, and finally they are understood collectively as large destructions.

Conversely, maybe my small reconstructions can add up to something largely positive. Just thinking in this way seems like the beginning of something big.

Sidewalk Trash photo, by L.L. Barkat. Berry quote from essay "Contempt for Small Places," in The Way of Ignorance, p.7.

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Blogger Haddock said...

Good for you. Our village has a trash walk every springtime. 115 people attended this year and a lot of rubbish was picked up.

I have lived in our village for almost 5 years. I know all my neighbours by first name and a lot of people seem to know me. I guess I am the only Englishman around! :)

6:59 PM  
Blogger Al Hsu said...

My family went for a walk the other day now that it's a little warmer (though not much!) and saw a bunch of trash along the main roads. Alas, we didn't have any garbage bags with us and didn't pick anything up. Next time. Thanks for the reminder!

9:06 AM  
Blogger Andrea said...

Wow, that is so great, L.L. I grew up in a very clean place. Moving here, noticing all the trash was/is very depressing.
It makes me not want to pick it up, it makes me mad that people don't care, that government around here doesn't care, that our huge taxes seemingly go to no beautification. Granted, it is very urban and lots of people make it hard for upkeep.
I wonder if I did something like this, would my perspective change--just a tiny bit. I just really don't know, I'm hardened by it--bitter at my surroundings sometimes.
Ahh. Got that off my chest.
You made me think, though. :)

10:35 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Haddock... That's a big turnout! I was thinking maybe we should do the town cleanup too. But I was also thinking that it might be beneficial to cultivate this as a regular mindset. Yes, I can see how your neighbors would know you, since you stand out in cultural diffference. (And, hey, you grow great tomatoes, and I bet everyone just wants to line up for the excess.)

Al... my kids are always astonished at such sights. "Why don't people care?" they ask. It's a good question, and deserves more than simple answers.

Andrea... Now isn't that interesting... I wonder if it's partly a "cultural" thing. Gov't around here does have a beautification committee and a town cleanup day, but I wonder why it seems not to make too much difference. I do think that taking personal responsibility is a good step. People kind of absorb cues from others. If they see you picking things up, well... maybe... they might think twice before tossing next time? (Okay, so I like to think positive. :) Anyway, I'm glad you got your views out in the open!

5:51 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

I'm not saying I'm a litterbug, or even that I don't care about the trash. I do care, I suppose that's partly why it's so depressing to me. I am even up for having a trashwalk, but I guess my point is that it seems as though in general the people around here (and, yes, even the beautification commitee) do not put a huge care or effort into promoting it or even upkeeping it.
When I said it makes me not want to pick it up, I was saying that the situation makes me feel hopeless that our community or that this urban area in general will ever be clean.
I have not done the research, but it would be interesting to see how much of it actually goes to keeping it clean.
However, as I said, I think a lot of it has to do with so many people in such a small space.
but, on the other hand, urban areas like San Francisco are much neater than say Manhattan or here.

6:09 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Andrea... yes, I can see that you are a very caring person. And I totally relate to the ire inside. I think the underwear in my hedge was just one of the worst insults, and I felt violated (though even the Doritos bags on my walk make me feel trespassed-upon too).

Have you read The Tipping Point? It's got some interesting ideas about why people act certain ways, and how communities can create new cultures. I wonder how we might "tip" a clean-gene here?

11:32 AM  
Blogger Mark Goodyear said...

Yes, L.L.! And even more important than tipping the clean gene, is the reminder about how important environment is.

According to Gladwell, cleaning up the subways changed the personality of the people riding the subways. That is a little hard for me to swallow, but I've seen more dramatic examples.

At Laity Lodge we call it the theology of place. (It's not a phrase that we coined, but it's a good phrase.) A big part of our ministry is simply keeping the place beautiful. Using architecture and food and maintenance and gardening and everything to help people relax. It gives incredible power to any message that a speaker presents in that context.

5:51 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Mark... yes, three cheers for creation! And I love that "theology of place phrase." Do you know who coined it? I think Charity would be especially interested in the concept.

Makes me wonder what kind of theology of place an urban (suburban?) community could have...

5:56 PM  
Blogger Al Hsu said...

Various folks have talked about a theology of place - not sure it's original with anybody in particular. While not a theologian per se, Kathleen Norris has written elegantly about her spiritual sense of place in the plains in her book Dakota, which she calls "a spiritual geography." That's a nice phrase.

In many ways, my suburban book is an attempt to construct a suburban theology of place, or a practical theology of suburban space. You'll encounter something of a "spiritual geography of the suburbs" as you work through the chapters.

11:18 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Al... Oh my, another book for my pile. I've read a little bit of Norris, but this sounds like a good choice for me right now. I think I'm actually developing my own little experience with a place... my raggedy back yard and its unexpected gifts.

And I look forward to seeing what unexpected gifts are still to come in TSC.

11:39 AM  
Blogger Marcia said...

We drove today through a neighborhood that separated a beautifully clean town from a vacation area in the woods on the Sound. There was so much litter on the sides of the road in the neighborhood we had to drive through, what I thought would be a dream area to live in I have shoved to the bottom of the list.

Thanks for the garbage bag reminder. I used to keep them in the car, but ran out.

1:23 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Ah, a fellow trash remover. Very nice. A few more of those in that neighborhood you were liking (and not liking), and it's set to be a better destination!

12:34 PM  

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