Early Spring 2009
When I opened my front door yesterday, I was greeted by one of our gloriously sunny yet crisp mornings here in Southern California. Marring my beautiful view, though, were at least a half dozen cardboard boxes scattered on the sidewalk in front of my house. Now, any green-loving environmentalist such as myself would have rolled up her shirt sleeves and started breaking down those boxes faster than you could say 'Keep California Beautiful.' You’d think. Unfortunately, I'm embarrassed to say that my inner 4-year-old was holding court in my brain that morning. 'You didn’t put those boxes there, so why should you have to take care of them?!' 'If you clean this up, it'll encourage others to dump their trash here. The next thing you know, your sidewalk's a landfill.' For longer than I care to admit, I stewed over those boxes, dragging my heels and justifying my inaction with an overriding sense of 'It isn't my mess!' (So much for 'being the change' I'd like to see in the world!)
Then I thought of how my friend Robin recently responded to an image she saw on TV (let alone something in front of her own house!). During Hurricane Ike, she watched in horror as the camera panned in on a dog whose owners had left him tied to a wooden picnic table in Houston, Texas. The water was creeping higher and higher and was up to his neck. She couldn't rest until she knew that the dog was okay. She called and emailed the TV station, sheriff's dept., nearest police dept., Humane Society, ASPCA, and finally an animal emergency hotline that let her know the dog was being taken care of.
As I thought of how Robin worked so hard to rectify a situation she had nothing to do with, guilt descended upon me. So what if those boxes weren't technically 'my responsibility' (as if the person who dumped them would suddenly have a bout of conscience and come pick them up)? As I began breaking down the boxes and hauling them to my recycling bin, I'd like to think that some of my old thought processes began to break down as well.
I wondered if I'd worked so hard over the years not to act as an 'enabler' that I'd thrown the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to taking ACTION for situations that don't feel like 'my' responsibility. Sometimes I get so bogged down in who's responsible for what that I forget the importance of making things right. The reality is that if something is affecting us, it IS our mess, and rather than pretending that it doesn't exist or blaming someone else, there is usually something we can do about it.
In this brand new year, my hope is that we focus on New Year's actions instead of making the same old tired resolutions. Think of how different our lives would be if we just 'did' instead of saying, 'I'm going to . . .' While I silently fumed over those boxes for hours, it probably took me fewer than five minutes to take care of the situation. My hope for all of us this year is for less stewing and more doing! Wishing you all a beautiful new year!