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Dumping Garbage

February 8, 2015 | by Emuna Braverman

Why are people throwing their garbage every single day into our lawn’s bushes?

There are large bushes in front of my house, near the street. Actually big pointy cacti. There are all different kinds and some of them look like the man-eating plants from old horror movies. But they are also kind of neat and unusual and we like them. We take care of them and (try to) keep them clean and pruned. The challenge is that every day, without exaggeration, people walk by and throw garbage into them – coffee cups, soda cans, candy wrappers, snack bags and on and on.

If it happened once in a while I could understand – there will always be those who are cavalier about the rights or needs of others or about taking care of the neighborhood. But it happens daily. A few times a day! How do I explain that away? And if I can’t, what does that say about my community, or at the very least about the people who walk past my home?

My husband and I regularly go down and clean out the bushes. But it is an unpleasant task made worse by the thoughts of all of our “neighbors” who treat our shrubbery like a garbage can. And I can’t help reflect on what this says about society. Like the postulation of the famous “Broken Windows” policing policy, incivility starts with the small things. A neighborhood that takes care of its lawns, that washes away graffiti, that fixes broken windows, is a neighborhood where people care about themselves and others. It becomes a neighborhood where people want more and try harder.

And the opposite is also true – where the windows remain broken and homes are boarded up, where street lights remain dark and the sides of buildings are covered with graffiti, it seems the residents have given up. They no longer care.

Perhaps the same is true when people throw their garbage in someone’s bushes – or onto the sidewalk or street. It is indifference to anyone or anything else. Of course, since it’s my bushes, I am forced to reflect not just on the poor behavior of those who toss their garbage into my cacti, but on what the lesson is for me.

Where in my life am I cavalier about the needs of others? Where do I figuratively throw my garbage in their bushes? (Actually I think I’m stretching the analogy too far; I can’t think of anything I do that corresponds to that action!) But we can all be casually indifferent as we run around trying to make sure we get our errands done and get them done first (Did I rush to the line so that I could squeeze my cart in first? Did I grab that last box off the shelf? Did I make the social plans for my friends or husband based on the activities I prefer as opposed to them? Are we dining out at my favorite restaurant or my husband’s? Do I hang the clothes back up in the dressing room or leave them on the floor? Do I return that unwanted grocery item to the shelf where it belongs? My cart to the proper place? ). The examples are seemingly limitless.

It’s quite unattractive, to say the least, to see the garbage in my bushes. It’s even less appealing to clean it out. But perhaps that’s the point. As I clean I can reflect on my own character and the ways in which I “dump my garbage in other people’s bushes” metaphorically (sorry, couldn’t resist). And maybe, just maybe, if I’m successful at changing my own character, the cups and bottles and yes, diapers will “magically” disappear from the front of my house.


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