Allowing Trash to Teach

lake trail


While enjoying my walk at Evergreen Lake this morning, I would reach down and collect bits of trash and hold them in my gloved hand until I reached the next trash receptacle. Having discarded my collection, I walked freely for a time. Then as I’d spy another cigarette butt, gum wrapper, piece of foil or some remnant of building material, I continued with my trash detail.

As a kid, my parents taught us “Don’t be a Litterbug!” Any trash we might have or create on a picnic or while traveling in the car, was to be disposed of responsibly.

Growing up in my native Colorado -the state of pristine air, water, and land - we rarely saw trash along the roadside or on the path at a park or campsite. Yet when we did, we knew it was our job to take care of it. Which we did!

I remember one of us (probably me) asking Dad why WE had to pick up somebody else’s trash when it wasn’t even ours in the first place. The meaning of my father’s answer has stuck with me my entire life, hence, my activity today. “It isn’t your fault when others litter. But when you find trash along your path, it then becomes your responsibility and your job to deal with it!”

As I continued on my way and with each new contribution to my pile, this is the thought that came to me: We all participate on this path, this path we call Life. We all contribute in some way, either positively or destructively, depending on “where we are” in our own lives, at the moment.

As I was pondering this thought and feeling pretty good about my contribution this morning, another memory floated up. I was reminded of another time, when I was not living in alignment with my values, my truth; a time when I was lost, searching, and acting out destructively in the interim.

It was in the mid 80’s and I was driving a “demo” while working with my father at the Chevrolet Dealership. I smoked then. I adhered to the rule of No Smoking in company cars by not putting my ashes or cigarette butts in the ash tray. Instead, I’d flick the ashes out the window and then chuck the butt out too, being sure, of course, that the area I was contributing to, was relatively free of combustible terrain. After all, I didn’t want to start a forest fire!

One such time I was driving along Upper Bear Creek Road and just before turning into the Lakepoint Center for an appointment, I flipped my cigarette butt out the window. Imagine my embarrassment when a man, clad in a cycling outfit, opened the door to the establishment, walked across the room, and in front of all the other patrons, held up my cigarette butt and exclaimed, “Excuse me madam, I think you dropped this!”

There is a descriptive root word in embarrassment that contributed to my shame that day. Regardless of the other destructive behaviors I continued for several more years, I never again threw out another cigarette butt!

Rather than pass judgement on those who originated the trash on my path this morning, I acknowledge a different focus with gratitude. Today I live in a place of consciousness that allows me to be a positive contributor. My contribution is to take responsible action on my own path, thus, clearing the path for others to follow and enjoy. Today, I Celebrate my part!

Take a minute to ask yourself-

• Is there someone or some situation in my Life today, that I am judging?

• And if there is, What is my role and how am I contributing?