I. HATE. LITTER.
There was a time when America cared about pollution enough to make commercials with an old Indian crying as he saw the result of what careless litterbugs were doing to his land. Maudlin, yes, but the point was well taken: "You're breaking my heart! You live here, right?" I was little kid when these commercials came out, and I was also a little confused because the guy they dressed like an American Indian didn't look Indian to me. He looked like a long-haired, melancholy-faced white actor wearing moccasins and a feather. But I digress...
The public service announcements that were aimed at little people MY age starred an animated Woodsy Owl, who had his own catchy theme song! I will quote it for you now as I sing it in my head:
"Help Woodsy spread the word
Never be a dirty bird
In the city or in the wood
Help keep Americaaaaaa-- looking good!"
I loved Woodsy and his positive vibe! "You can be a helper! We can do this together! C'mon, everybody! Clean is BEAUTIFUL!"
Fast forward a number of years. I am still pro-wastebasket.
The parking lot of my office is:
a) behind a 7-11
b) adjacent to a bus stop
c) on the corner of two busy streets which have a lot of foot traffic and
d) the apparent end point of a wind tunnel which deposits all the neighborhood trash on our property.
There is ALWAYS litter on our property, ALWAYS! And it drives me absolutely crazy! I'm forever picking up candy wrappers, cigarette boxes, fast food trash, receipts, plastic grocery bags, used napkins, soda cans, etc. etc. etc.
Today was no exception. Since most of the trash blows over from behind the 7-11 and the bus stop area, I spent about 40 minutes cleaning up those areas, too.
I started out just wanting to make the place clean, but soon found myself muttering judgmental things about the SELFISH JERKS that think they can just LEAVE THEIR MESSES for somebody else to clean up, and sure enough, SOMEBODY will because SOMEBODY cares, even if they don't, and what WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE just unwrap something and THROW THEIR GARBAGE ON THE GROUND, anyway?? What is WRONG with these people, for Pete's sake! This is the problem with America -- everybody wanting somebody else to clean up their messes and IT MAKES ME SICK and I can HARDLY BELIEVE what the world is coming to...etc, etc. etc.
And so, ironically, what started out as a "good deed" became yet another occasion for me to judge people I don't know for something they do that I don't like.
As God (some would say "luck") would have it, the bible study I led last night was on Romans chapter 2, which is mainly about not judging others. Oy! It turns out, the author suggests, that we who judge are guilty of the same kinds of stuff. Just as bad.
No, I don't litter. I don't leave my shopping carts in adjacent parking spaces. I don't use my cell phone in public restrooms. But I notice those who do these things, and I judge them. I say they are careless, thoughtless, rude. And really, some of them definitely ARE those things. I think what they are doing is wrong. But I take it further. I call them out as less than in my mind. And I feel a smug sense of satisfaction that I am better than that.
Better than them.
So today, God called ME out for the litter I had just thrown around in my mind. It was starting to look a little junky in there.