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We Have to Touch the Problem

I had talked about doing it for a few weeks. Finally, I got off the couch and moved. I opened the door of the kitchen cabinet under the sink and took out two big black trash bags. I walked out through our front door, down the driveway, and began. . . .

There was nothing glamorous about the work, but I reminded myself that sometimes it is important to work for your community even when it doesn't feel like you are doing much. I leaned over, and with just two fingers I gingerly picked up a cup and straw from a fine fast-food establishment called Checkers down the street. I tried not to think about what germs might be multiplying on this nasty cup and made a mental note to buy a pair of gloves for next time. I moved on down the street and picked up pieces from a broken pot on the sidewalk. I picked up candy-bar wrappers. A few liquor bottles. Beer cans. Coke bottles. Empty bags of chips. Glass fragments. A plastic bag. A syringe. (Oh, God, protect me!) Gum wrappers. On and on. It didn't stop. . . .

A homeless guy I had never seen in my life yelled at me across the street. "Hey, I think you missed a few," he shouted. "Over there in the bushes, you missed a few." Thanks (I think . . . ), I thought.

I picked up the trash in the bushes and realized my two bags were full, so I turned around and started walking home. As I walked back just four blocks, I saw more and more trash littering the streets and parking lots that I hadn't even touched and didn't have enough space for in my two measly trash bags. I put the trash out in our green trash bin and walked back in the front door. Done, but not done at all.

As I slumped down on the couch, trying to feel good about what I had done, I realized ...

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We Have to Touch the Problem
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May 2013

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