9 05 2012

It’s Just a Small Thing……or is it?

I recognized it immediately.   It was the plastic wrapper that protects those cheese sticks we all love to snack on.   I’ve torn into my share.   But this wrapper was not on my kitchen counter.   It was flying through the air, having just been tossed out of the driver’s side window of the new white Honda Pilot in front of me.  While we were rounding a curved onramp, down the window went, and out it flew.   A clearly intentional act.  Really?   Who died and made you king or queen of the freeway to use at your disposal?   Did you miss that day in school when we talked about not being a litterbug?   Who are you?

When we got onto the freeway, I couldn’t help but speed up to get a look at the offender.   Probably some irresponsible kid who’s  been given the keys and is feeling carefree this sunny Seattle afternoon.   As I eased up beside the SUV and stole a glance over, I was stunned to see a woman about my age, happily taking another bite of her snack.   She looked put together and confident as she drove along.  Clearly a Baby Boomer gone wrong.   I let her speed  past me, and looked at her license plate which was surrounded with a frame that said “My grandkids are more special than yours.”    How nice.

As I followed her vehicle, which by the way had a perpetual left turn signal light on, I couldn’t help reflect on her action.  Was this her first time to litter and was she already feeling guilty about it.  Or was this her  “normal” and she didn’t even give it a thought.  One thing seemed clear…… that age does automatically bring with it wisdom and responsibility.    Those traits are earned, and not by years, but by decisions we make and actions we take.   The famous quote from Margaret Thatcher captures that well:

“Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become… habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny! What we think we become.”

Powerful words.   The other thing this little littering incident reminded me was that these seemingly simple acts, which may seem small, are never done is a vacuum.   Our actions impact those around us, good or bad.   We are daily making decisions that either contribute to or detract from, build up or tear down, the world and the people around us.   I want to be someone who builds up, who contributes, who cares.

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”
Helen Keller



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