004I teetered on the edge of the flooded, scum topped, drainage ditch.  I stretched to reach the half full sport water bottle that was floating on it’s surface.  As I teetered, I heard my college boy mumble something about “nematodes”  and wondered if maybe this was a bad idea after all.  I didn’t want to have to explain the nematodes under my nails to the nail tech, the scum stains would be bad enough.

“Can’t you get cholera from dirty water?”  I heard the high school boy ask.  Ignoring him, I sighed, and stood up with my slimey, nematode and scum covered prize.  I dropped it into the half full garbage bag.  “Scaring me won’t work guys- we’re filling these bags. ”  I said in reply. It was Earthday and we were doing our part, or ELSE. They must have gotten the message, because they bent to pick up a broken cooler and an empty vodka bottle from the weeds.

“Mommy!  Look!  I found garbage! I made a difference!”  Yelled my youngest, as he added a broken hub-cap to the garbage bag.  At least someone was enjoying this project.  He was living on the edge- (this was the closer to the road than he is normally allowed) and doing his part to care for our community. He could not have been happier. I on the other hand, was starting to feel overwhelmed and disgusted.  Everywhere I looked- there was more garbage, much of it not even within reach. It would still be there when we left.  To be honest- it would be hard to tell we’d ever been there, at all.  I felt a knot of tension tighten between my shoulders.  This was NOT what I’d had in mind.

“Why, exactly, do we have to clean up this mess, anyways? We didn’t MAKE it.”  I heard mumbled from one teenager to another.  I ignored them.  But, I have to admit- although it had been my idea to do this, I was starting to wonder the same thing. 

I walked across the road and bent to the edge of the ditch on the other side.  I reached out to pluck a soggy (but thankfully, empty) cup from it’s equally murky, depths.  I felt my foot slide on the muddy bank.  I tottered in slow motion and (thankfully) fell backwards onto my backside.  I had no desire to slurp nematode soup.

As I sat, mud soaking into my sweats, I caught my reflection in the scum topped and oil-slicked, ditch water.  I looked awful.  Not just dirty- but furious.  I was furious that this was making very little difference, and furious that the older boys attitudes were crummy.  (Not to mention my own.) I struggled to stand up without touching anything and I wondered how people do this everyday, for a living. “They get paid, to.”  Was the answer that came to mind.

“I don’t.” said a small quiet voice, the one I recognize in my heart as either the voice of God or truth… For a moment, I though I’d lost it. Maybe it was contaminated ditch water fumes, or the nematodes, but I argued with the quiet voice:  “I don’t recall a bible story about you picking up trash on Earthday.”  I snarked. “I do it everyday, it’s called grace.”  The voice countered.

I stopped snarking and felt my fury melt away.  I hadn’t thought about it like that before. (more…)