Be the change you want to see


When it comes to cleaning up after yourself, some people, most notably my children and my former students, might accuse me of being rather dictatorial in nature. That’s probably because that was non-negotiable in my books. However, as some tyrants might do, I didn’t just made the rules, I tried my best to live them and to set a good example.

Growing up, my children were expected not only to take care of their possessions, but also to help care for the general maintenance and cleanliness of our home. First of all, their mama was too busy to do it for them. Secondly, they were both able-bodied, intelligent kids who were more than capable of doing household chores and keeping their room and such in order. (Heck, I even had them doing laundry at an early age. I reasoned that if they could figure out how to use a computer, they could easily run an automatic washing machine.) But most importantly, why would I deny my precious offspring the golden opportunity to gain some life skills and the chance to take responsibility for their own existence. (And, no, I’m not being sarcastic.)

I carried that same attitude into the classroom where I believed that my job entailed much more than meeting curriculum requirements and teaching subject matter. That’s why I expected students to pick up after themselves and keep the classroom and school tidy. (And, to the parent who suggested that’s why we have a janitor — no, it’s not the responsibility of the custodian to clean up personal messes.) Again, I was not about to pass up the chance to help mould my students into good, responsible citizens.

When I see people carelessly discarding their personal garbage expecting some other individual to come along and clean up their mess, it’s all I can do to hold my tongue and not confront them. But it’s getting tough not to say something, as folks seem to be taking less and less responsibility for their actions. If you don’t believe me, check out how many people just leave their garbage on the table when they are done in the mall food court, or the many individuals who just deposit their shopping cart wherever they last needed one.

So where is this little rant of mine headed, you might wonder. Well, recently I watched a news report that left me angry and dismayed, but never speechless. It was footage of the aftermath of the Dakota Access Pipeline protest in North Dakota and it was one of the most disgusting scenes of human disregard for the environment I have ever seen. Thousands of protestors had converged on a site to express their opposition to the pipeline project. When they were ordered to leave, most just picked up, leaving behind a mountain of trash, discarded camping gear, and even abandoned vehicles. I’m all for freedom of speech, but I’m also a fan of cleaning up your own mess!

The U.S. Army had to be called in, at a cost of $1.1 million, to get rid of the trash and garbage. All of that refuse filled 835 dumpsters, so we’re not talking about picking up napkins and cups after the community picnic. This was a full-scale clean-up operation.

Such shabby treatment of the environment is unacceptable, but such blatant disregard for Mother Earth by folks who claim to be protecting her is absolutely reprehensible. How can these so-called guardians of the earth have any credibility when they take no responsibility for their own mess?

My message is simple – if you want to preach the gospel of environmentalism, then it might be wise to quit tossing your used pop cans and pizza boxes around the very pulpit from where you are delivering your sanctimonious message. In other words, practice what you preach if you want the rest of the world to listen. Maybe the change you seek starts at home.



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