Wherever I go, people litter. Someone in the car in front of me throws wrappers into the street. A young man walking down the sidewalk tosses his empty cigarette box on the grass. Folks leave litter behind after a picnic. What is the best way to deal with this? My inclination is to hand them what they dropped, but they might get irritated with me. Should I just pick up after them?
Allow me to respond with a story: I sat on a bench at McKinley Park recently with a friend and watched a woman and four young children feed bread to the ducks. The woman turned away to walk back to her picnic, and I turned to look at the people gathering for a free concert in the park. “Look at that!” my friend said angrily. I turned just in time to see a bread bag drifting across the pond and the child who threw it walking away. As my friend ranted about unsupervised children and then about littering, another child emptied his bread bag and then dropped it on the grass. “Honey, could you pick that up and toss it in the trash?” I called out. The child looked at me, picked up his litter and put it into the trashcan. Then he joined the woman and the other children.
My friend, who is male, said that he could not have said anything to the child because, as a man, “It would be taken the wrong way.” He said he was also concerned about misunderstandings because he was Caucasian and the woman and children were black. My friend then suggested that the child obeyed me because I have a “teacher voice.” Finally, my friend said he might have been able to say something to the child if he had been able to process his anger first. Here’s my translation: My friend’s mind was littered with so many beliefs that he could not deal with the literal problem of litter in front of him.
Now, it’s your turn to play: What is your mind littered with? Worries? Beliefs about right and wrong? Concepts that identify certain items as trash and others as treasures? If you found a $50 bill, would it be trash? If you had no shoes and found an abandoned pair, would it be treasure?
If you can free yourself from your trashy thoughts (especially those about others), you will act with kindness—but without thought—when you encounter litter. Your action will be effortless. At times, you will ask the person who dropped something to pick it up and toss it out. Other times, you might pick it up yourself. Occasionally, litter may appear to you as adornment on the earth or as an unexpected treasure. Enjoy it all!
Whenever it’s a gift-giving occasion, my boyfriend complains that he has no money. He generally gives me something he wants (or already has), like a bottle of wine. He does this to his family, too. Yet, during these same periods, he buys himself expensive stuff. I tried to talk about this, but he raged that I just don’t get that he has no money. Is this a red flag?
Are you willing to tolerate your boyfriend’s behavior, or is it a deal breaker? It’s affirming to receive a gift that signifies care for your interests and respect for the relationship’s status. Not receiving such a gift may not be important if the other qualities you desire in a partner are present. It’s clear that your man is dishonest about his finances and fears not having enough. But if you yearn for a fabulous gift as justification of the relationship’s value, gifts are not the problem.