Trash talk

Every now and then, when I’ve got a free half hour and need a break, I grab a couple of big black garbage bags and a set of nabbers and walk along the roads that bound our meeting’s property. It still amazes me, the things people throw out.

Today I filled two large bags in no time at all. Dozens and dozens of bottles – North Carolina doesn’t have a bottle and can deposit law. Hard liquor, malt liquor, soft drinks, go cups, soda cans, bottled water, baby food, energy drinks, you name it. I know every fast food place in this part of town, and I could probably tell them all what their customers’ favorites are. I picked up soda straws, empty cigarette and cigar packages (Newport Menthol appears to be the favorite around here), snuff containers, paper bags, styrofoam trays and lottery tickets.

Some things were too big to pick up or drag back, and will have to wait till our meeting’s Clean Up Day next month – a shopping cart, old tires, a TV set, old window frames. Down at the corner by the cemetery, this week somebody abandoned a Chevy 3500 van in the ditch. Whoever did it left the license plate on, so when I called it in the police will have something to go on. Maybe it was stolen or taken for a joyride.

As a Christian, I know I’m supposed to be non-judgmental, but picking up hundreds of pounds of other people’s litter every year gets to be kind of old. I mentioned this to the head of our House and Grounds committee, a native of the area famous for his bluntness, who said, “Hell, they don’t care! They just drivin’ on down the road and phwtt! out the window she goes!”

Quakers are supposed to be advocates for world peace and non-violence, and I don’t think I would actually do any physical harm to these jerks. But it’s depressing to think that there is simply no way anyone on earth could reason with people who throw their trash by the roadside. They really don’t care, and I doubt that anyone will ever make them care.

There are much worse sins than littering, but in a way it’s symptomatic of the way human beings are broken. How could people who are made in God’s image, who were formed for the garden of Eden, who were told by God to be stewards of this earth, act this way?

Could be that their parents didn’t teach them. Could be that they’re so poor that they don’t feel any sense of ownership or belonging or responsibility for the community they live in. But I have a feeling that until people care enough to quit littering, we won’t have peace in this part of North Carolina. And if we keep filling up the world with garbage and don’t care who has to deal with it, we may not have peace with our neighbors, or with the world.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep on picking up trash in our neighborhood.

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4 Responses to “Trash talk”


  1. 1 Daniel Wilcox February 1, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    Hey Joshua, Thanks for doing your bit for the environment and for the beauty of North Carolina.

    HOWEVER, what’s wrong with your highway department?!

    Out west here the vast majority of places have no litter because we have volunteer groups–mentioned by adopt-a-highway signs in their areas–who keep our scenic roadsides squeaky clear and beautiful.

    Sounds like N.C. still exists in the 1950’s;-)

  2. 2 John Jeremiah Edminster February 1, 2018 at 7:40 pm

    Thank you for continuing to pick up trash around the church! And even if no one else saw or knew, God sees!

    I invite you and your readers to read Ronald Duncan’s Introduction (pages 4-27) to his anthology of the writings of Mohandas K. Gandhi (http://www.mkgandhi.org/ebks/SWMGandhi.pdf). As you’ll read on page 14, Gandhi picked up the dung of the inhabitants of the depressed village of Wardha until they, following his example, began to pick up and bury their own. I read Ronald Duncan’s account about fifty years ago, and I’ve never ceased to remember, with a kind of awe, the Mahatma’s humble example of service to people so broken that they couldn’t even take care of this most elementary need of their own.

    Many of the people of the United States are now broken in spirit, like the debt-enslaved villagers of India in the 1930s, but not in such dire outward circumstances: they (or at least the better-off ones) may have stable homes, with motor vehicles, television sets, and disposable diapers to throw, soiled, by the roadside — but a broken spirit is a broken spirit nonetheless. I’m persuaded that it was to such as these that Jesus was sent (Luke 4:16-21, quoting Isaiah 61:1-3). So long as such exist among us as our neighbors, it’s a privilege for us followers of Christ to serve them and pray for them, knowing that Christ may be living and suffering within them (Matt 25:31-46).

  3. 3 Palma Richardson February 2, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    I live on a busy ‘fast food’ alley. I decided I could let go of my judgement and anger by saying, “ I forgive you since you don’t know any better.”


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All of the posts on this blog are my own personal opinion. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the members and attenders of the meeting where I belong or any organization of Friends. For more information, click on the "About Me" tab above.

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