On Monday morning (Martin Luther King Jr. Day) I took my younger daughter and her BFF to a “Day of Service” activity that Michelle Obama personally invited me to participate in. (“Personally” meaning I got an email from her and since she asked and it did not involve my donating $25 to the election, the inauguration, or saving the banks, I agreed.) Anyway, they—I was expressly told that I was unwelcome—were going to clean up a park alongside the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia (which is opposite Washington, DC, where I did not go to watch the inauguration because it was too cold and the closures of roads and metro stations, and the expected traffic and parking issues was just too daunting to try to overcome).
We got there at about 9:15 (fifteen minutes late because I was stuck behind a sand truck that was dumping sand on the road because there was the barest of indicators of snow flying through the air). By the time we got there the garbage picker-upper sticks had been picked up by other volunteers (my daughter was so disappointed, she was really looking forward to using one). My daughter and her friend picked up the last two garbage bags. Oh, well.
I walked off in the opposite direction that they went so I wouldn’t be publicly chastised for being within a mile of them and thus infringing on their freedom and ability to pretend that they are mature while swinging their pony tails from side to side as they giggle at the silliness of everyone else while cleaning up a park. When I was far enough away from them I looked at the frozen Potomac and the gulls flying and the geese waddling on the ice, and thought of how momentous the inauguration will be: momentous because Bush will be not be able to inflict any more of his pain upon us and the world any more (okay, he will from all of the rules and laws and judges he has put into place, but at least he will finally be stopped from doing more), and momentous because Obama will become the President of the United States—both him as an individual and him as embodying the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King himself.
I wandered back towards the sign-up desk and saw that a few people were heading out to clean up the park with supermarket bags. At that moment I realized that I can save the day, YES! I have a bag of bags in my car, ready to shove into the recycle container at the supermarket at any time (that is if I remember to take it out of the car). I raced off to my car and picked up the bag of bags which now did not look so much like garbage in the back seat of my car, but a way to save the world. Yes, those bags were greeted with enthusiasm by the volunteers. I took a newspaper bag, and wandered off to clean the park, pleased with myself and my saving ways.
And thus we spent about two hours. My daughter and her friend ended up in bottle alley (a part of the park, right along the shore, where there were enough bottles and cans to fill supersize garbage bag upon supersize garbage bag). And I mulled the need to require all smokers to at least ten hours of community service a year to pick up a portion of the cigarette butts that they toss out of their cars and from their hands as if they were as biodegradable as the air we breathe.
People hold onto your bottles and butts until you get to a garbage can. If we all just took responsibility for our own things there would not be a need for thousands of volunteers across the country to pick up trash. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have spent that time improving the park by adding to it, and not getting it to be the way it should be?