Saturday, August 13, 2011

Life motto: Be the change you want to see in the world.

Do you ever happen upon a really dirty area in your neighbourhood? Is there a bench in a park you love that always seems to pile up a lot of garbage?

I've been spending a lot of time wondering about this lately and asking myself how people can care so little for their surroundings. It just so happens that I think many people care, but sometimes they're waiting for someone to come along and ask them to help. This is why today, I want to talk about a motto that a friend of mine cites as her inspiration.

Life motto: Be the change you want to see in the world.

Last night, I got home late and noticed that outside a neighbour's balcony, the ground was covered in cigarette butts. I found this repulsive last night, and woke up this morning with the urge to go clean it up. I toyed with the idea of leaving it there for a bit so the negligent neighbour could see the harm he'd done but I worried that the wind would blow everything around. So instead, I wrote the person a letter, asking him to use an ashtray next time. Then, I went outside and picked up 207 cigarette butts off the street. (Yes, you read that right.) I used a thicker plastic bag I had as a glove and a little bread bag to hold the garbage. I've also decided that when I deliver my letter, I'll also return the bag to its rightful owner.



All 207 of them, plus a few packets of snuff, a ball of paper towel and 2-3 empty packs of cigarettes.

To be honest, I noticed people staring at me this morning while I was doing this and that made me happy (though I also felt slightly awkward!) I don't think it looked like I'd been out partying the night before so I hope they didn't think that was my mess. But if you see someone doing a clean-up like that, you're more likely to go out and do one yourself. Which is actually how I ended up out there in the first place...

I've been having a lot of ideas lately. Some of them are good, like this blog (I hope!) and some of them not so much. I'm sure I'm not the only person with ideas and that's why I think when you have a good one, you should go with it. Try it out, see if it can work, and when it takes off, you'll be all the more grateful for trying.

For example, my friend Donna has been taking the bus to and from the city for the past 2 years. Through the changing seasons, she's noticed that the bus stops can sometimes be really filthy places. To remedy this, she spoke to a friend about going out there and cleaning them up herself (even though there's a company who owns them and therefore should look after them properly.) The friend she spoke with offered to help and said she's sure other people would come help too!

So here we are, a few weeks later, organizing an event to gather the community together and show people we can make a difference. Tampere has been getting increasingly dirtier, especially during the weekends after long nights of partying (and sadly, littering). Over 60 people are expected to come help out and the local newspaper Aamulehti will be there to take pictures, talk to people and write about the event so more people can hear about it.

It hasn't been all smooth sailing though. It can be quite discouraging to walk around and see lots of trash sitting there or blowing in the wind, but we have to believe that people didn't realize what harm they were causing when they threw that trash there. Some people don't see a point in picking it up, while others think it's a great idea and are bringing the kids to teach them about it too. But what I take away from this, is that many ideas can turn into something really positive and that even making a small difference, for example, in terms of garbage picked up, can end up inspiring people to do the same, or at least, think twice about throwing garbage on the ground.

I'll post more about the event on Sunday, after it takes place!

Update: I just went over to the building and spoke with the guy who had the party. I rang his bell, handed him the note (no mailbox) and gave him the bag of butts. I really don't feel any anger and he seemed like a nice guy, just embarrassed. I think that keeping an open mind and being friendly always goes a long way too.

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