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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A Beautiful World.... A Beautiful Life


(read on, there is a point!)
Monday was Labor Day.  My wife and I have kind of started a tradition that I find kind of nourishing…in more ways than one.  It began last Labor Day, when she suggested that we take the day and drive somewhere new where we could have some time away for a relaxing picnic.  If we don’t leave the house, then we tend to do other things than relax.  I have never been one for big Labor Day celebrations, except when I was in Cincinnati which hosts the most incredible fireworks show on the Ohio River that weekend…I’m jealous of my friend Alex, who told me that was what THEY did for Labor Day!  But I digress.

She indicated she didn’t want to have to drive too far this time, so I pulled out a map and located a couple of State Parks across the border in Oklahoma on a nearby lake.  We decided to go there.  

State Park #1—mainly for camping, not much in the way of Lakeside locations, pretty full of people, and lots of trash on the ground, as well as dead fish and bait left by fishermen.  Yuck.  

State Park #2—the ranger had warned us there wasn’t much at this one, and so we thought just a shady place to throw a tablecloth on the ground could work.  No shade near the water’s edge, and shade anywhere else had the same problem as #1—trash.  

State Park #3—the ranger had told us was closed because of flooding that had destroyed a lot of the area.  We kind of ended up there accidentally, but looking around, saw what he meant…pretty bad shape.  However, not too far from it was a riverside spot that was shady and quiet.  Though it would have been nice to have cooler temperatures, there was a breeze, and not nearly as much trash (must have been washed downstream in the flooding), and a big, green frog who offered protection from mosquitoes.  At least, I’m guessing that’s why he just sat there a few feet away the entire picnic.  

Noting a plastic water bottle in the water, I commented to her, “What is wrong with people that they are always dumping trash in places like rivers and parks?”  I have been to a fishing lake near my home a number of times lately, and the trash left by fisherman and campers is amazing and disgusting.  I always think that if you goal is to enjoy catching fish, then it would make sense not to pollute the place you are fishing, wouldn’t it?

I grew up during Lady Bird Johnson’s era, when she started the Keep America Beautiful campaign and declared the war on litter.  “Please, please, don’t be a litterbug, don’t be a litterbug.”  If you don’t know what that ditty refers to, count your blessings.  If you do, I’m sorry, because the tune will probably be stuck in your head all day now!  I also lived through the 70’s, with the big environmental emphasis on pollution and ecology.  So maybe I am hypersensitive when I walk these parks.  But maybe not.

Now, lest you blame it on Oklahoma, I’ve seen the same and worse in California and New York and the south and most places humans go.  I find it odd that people talk about the “plastic bottle island” in the Pacific and how terrible it is, but have no qualms about dropping a plastic bottle onto the ground or into the water near them.  Last time I checked, rivers and streams tend to head eventually toward what?  THE OCEAN!!!  In fact, I think this obsession with plastic bottles of water is ridiculous and irresponsible…but that’s just me.

Having said all that, the experience got me to thinking about what might be other areas of our lives we litter.  For instance, what kind of garbage do we toss into our brains through what we watch and read?  What kind of junk (food) do we throw into our bellies and allow to “pile up” on our sides, or to clog up the streams of our arteries?  

There are even people who trash their churches by the things they say and do, and even literally as I have so often noticed bulletins, flyers and candy trash left in the pews and hymnal racks (even though the people walk right by a trash can at the back of the church on their way out…again, I don’t get it).  

What about in our relationships?  How many divorces occur because we don’t take proper care of the “parks” we call home and marriage?  How much do we trash or litter those relationships with things best disposed of properly , or maybe recycled into something useful?  In some ways, our Labor Day has now been recycled into something that is a relationship and memory builder (despite the yucky memories of decaying fish…bleah!)  Of all the things in our lives, shouldn’t we be cherishing our relationships and making every effort to keep them beautiful?  Yet far too often we allow garbage to build up, littering them with thoughtless words and junk activities, or trash the values that make it strong.

Well, I think I will stop before the rant gets too awfully long.  I will leave it to you to decide whether you are littering your life and world, or making it beautiful.  As for me, I kind of like the policy of trying to always leave the places we spend our lives a little bit better than they were when we arrived.  It may mean picking up somebody else’s litter.  It may mean repairing something around the house.  It may mean pulling a few weeds.  It may mean learning to be a nicer person.  But our mark is left on everything we touch and everyone we meet.  I hope we are smart enough to not leave litter in our wake!  

P.S.  Somebody pointed out how sad it is that when man first visited the moon (and subsequently), part of the heritage we left behind was…you got it, trash.  Even the very cool Mars rovers, will one day become litter on Mars!

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