You can find a lot of four letter words on the side of the road.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in a bit of a rush. The three-year-old was having a minor fit and was stubbornly avoiding getting into his car seat. I was juggling him, his empty cup of milk, and another bag. In order to get him into his seat, I put the bag and cup on the hood of my car, wrangled him into place, calmed him down (a little) by giving him a book, grabbed the bag, got into the car myself, and headed off for home. Sometimes when he gets like this, I get riled myself, so as he calmed down in the back seat, I was trying to calm myself down in the front seat.
Thus calm and driving away, it was a few minutes later that I saw the cup flying off the hood of my car and quickly be lost on the side of the road in my rear view mirror.
For a moment, but only for a moment, I thought to stop and pick it up. But that wasn't really easy to do on this road, and I was gaining distance from it by the moment. I couldn't turn around - I would have to walk. I didn't really want to leave my son sitting in the car while I walked to pick up a piece of trash, even of my own fault, and it wasn't that safe for him to be walking along the side of this road either.
I thought about that cup for the rest of the car ride home. I thought about how often I had mentally criticize others for throwing trash out the window of their car. I thought about what kind of role model I was being for my son. I thought about the garbage I've seen on highways, and how its gotten better over the years. I thought about the "Don't Mess with Texas" slogan, originally created as an anti-littering campaign. I thought about the overflowing trash cans in rest areas, and even about the trash can at my house - after all, even if its not by the side of the road, it does have to go somewhere.
And then I forgot about it.
Today, a friend posted on Facebook about someone leaving a container of food on a bench right next to a trash can. He included a picture. I assume, since he's a good guy, that he proceeded to throw it out. There were lots of comments to the post about how it was a shame that people today just weren't raised right and were too lazy to throw something away. How people just weren't respecting the places they lived.
For a while, I was thinking the same thing... but then I remembered the cup flying off my car... I wondered what someone else would have written if they had seen that happen... and I wondered what the rest of the story was with this container of food. Was this left by a mother with lunch for herself and her child, sitting down for a moment, only to suddenly have to chase after the child and forgetting the lunch - and what will she think later when she is expecting to have it? Was this the leftovers from a too-big dinner at a local restaurant, frequented by an older couple, who left it here after a brief rest on their walk home? Was it intentionally left here by a kind-hearted individual, as they often do, knowing that a homeless person would be by shortly and would appreciate the anonymous gift? And even if it was really meant as trash - it is still wasted food in a world that has too much waste.
I'm going to go reply to my friend with a link to this post. I hope he doesn't mind that I've used his picture and story as an inspiration for mine today. This weekend I think I'm going to go out with a trash bag to that roadway and see what I can clean up.