Picking Up for Peace

Tibetan Prayer Wheel | the beauty in simpleMost days I go for walks. It’s my form of meditation, exercise, and connecting with the natural world. I don’t know what triggered it, but the other day when I was walking I was hit with sinking feelings of sadness and despair from all the horrible events happening in our world. I can’t make sense of it all.

Desperate to shift my thoughts I started looking for unexpected beauty, compassion, and kindness on my walk. I noticed a geranium planted in the middle of a tree trunk at my local park. It could have been planted by the city, but this looked like it was done by the hands of a citizen. I noticed someone had set out a cookie jar full of dog treats in memory of their own dog. I noticed a Tibetan prayer wheel installed in a fence for passing people to spin, sending good intentions into the world. It made me wonder if shifting our focus to that of beauty, compassion, and kindness could be part of the solution to our world’s hurts.

During this same walk, I stooped down to pick up a few empty cans and bottles littering the sidewalk. My mom started the habit in me when I was a child. She’d take me and my brothers up and down our rural county road to pick up cans. She didn’t motivate us with the good deed we’d be performing, but by the money we’d make at the recycling center. The habit stuck and I still find myself picking up empties, although no longer for financial gain.

Last summer I read about this really cool initiative in Australia called Take 3. The idea is to encourage folks to pick up three pieces of trash every time they visit the beach, waterway, or anywhere. I started a habit of picking up three pieces of trash every day. If I missed a day I’d pick up six the next day. At some point I lapsed in my efforts and then I forgot to start again. I still picked up trash; it just wasn’t a daily habit.

I thought about that initiative again as I was carrying the empty bottles and cans home to deposit in the recycling bin. That’s what I would do – pick up three pieces of trash everyday. It’s not going to solve the world’s problems, but it gives me a peace of mind that I’m doing something for a positive change. If I do it for a year, I’ll have thrown away (or recycled) 1,095 pieces of litter. Maybe one of you will join me and we could double, triple or quadruple that number? It may not amount to much, but it’s something. 

10 thoughts on “Picking Up for Peace

  1. We just got back from a trip to Croatia. Although not anymore ” littery ” than the US, I did find many pieces of broken styrofoam coolers and plastic bottles on a trip to a rocky beach. I found two plastic bags floating in the ocean and used them to collect the debris. It was a small thing, but made me feel good to know those few pieces would not end up harming marine life. I love your idea of doing it daily.

    1. That’s so awesome that you did that! I hope other people were watching and are inspired to do the same. A friend just shared with me his pictures from a recent trip to Croatia. What a beautiful place! I hope your trip was wonderful.

  2. I totally understand how you feel, the despair and hopelessness that comes with witnessing the many forms of violence that are occurring now pretty much on a daily basis. The inner pain can be overwhelming and, like you, I want to turn away. However, I think the solution lies in holding both places – the places of pain and suffering and those of beauty and compassion. This is the realm of duality we are in. I like your coping strategy of picking up trash – we are inclined to want to DO something, action puts us in a place of feeling in charge in a world where we are not… thanks for sharing.

    1. Annette, you always offer such words of wisdom. “Holding both places” is so important. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You helped me sort through my own emotions. xo

  3. My husband has always picked up cans and bottles on his daily walk, which is great. And I don’t mind the fact that I’m the one who has to rinse them out before they go in the recycling. What I do mind is when ants come out of the sticky pop cans. Ugh.

  4. I live in Evergreen with a wonderful dog park. There is a lady who goes out there and just picks up poop. She must pick up 10-15 lbs of poop a time. She is definitely the poop fairy. There is a sign that says “There is no poop fairy.” But people still do take care of their own dogs waste. I am hoping it happens when the dog is out of site. Naive? We now have extra bags when we run our dog and pick up any poop when we see it. So simple to make it a beautiful place to walk. I will definitely start picking up 3 pieces of trash when walking.

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