I was walking home from school one Wednesday afternoon a couple hundred feet behind Natalie. I always liked Natalie, I think everyone did, she was popular but it made sense, she was social, free-spirited, happy, and smart. Natalie and I lived a block away from each other but I didn’t know we ever frequented the same trail to and from school—I would assume she hung out with people or was involved in something social and cool yet progressive. I was far back enough that it wasn’t awkward to not just catch up with her so I just kept my distance and watched her. She wasn’t plugged into an ipod or distractedly texting. As I was about take the turn to my house I saw Natalie up ahead stoop down, pick up a couple of plastic bottles, shake them off, and put them in her bag. She doesn’t know that small act was noticed by anyone but I saw it and it changed how I go about living. I believe in picking up trash.
I’ve never littered. It’s just always been a foreign concept to me—there’s always a trashcan within a quarter of a mile and the emotional closure from using a formal waste reciprocal has always been worth it. But it wasn’t until Natalie’s small simple action that it occurred to me I could step up and take a more progressive stance in keeping my beautiful world clean. It is liberating to stoop down to pick up someone else’s trash. Nothing is below me. The world is mine, mine for the improving in small simple ways.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.