It’s a funny thing when you realize you know why your parents harped on you about manners and having respect for the world at large. It was part of learning to be a good citizen.
When you’re young, all those sayings and anecdotes seem like overkill, too crazy to be real. Then, well, you get out into the big bad world and realize there might not be such a thing as too crazy to be real.
“Eat your crusts, there are children starving in Africa.” This was the litany when you didn’t finish your meal. I understood I wasn’t supposed to waste food, and I should respect every morsel. But it was an abstract notion.
Now I can say I have seen pictures of starving children, and I’ve seen videos of food not eaten when it didn’t need to be wasted. Once I saw Just Eat It , a documentary about a Canadian couple that decided to try and survive on wasted food, I realized that food needs to be better valued, and distributed, in our world. Now we keep a chalkboard on the fridge reminding us of what needs to be eaten.
“Don’t litter”. I remember seeing signs on the highway that said this. It was definitely considered bad manners to be careless enough to just throw something away, not in a garbage can. As I got older, recycling became more of a part of that action.
Now I work harder to make my motto the other parts of that slogan. After scuba diving in Cozumel and seeing the piles of plastic garbage on the beaches and pieces of plastic in the ocean, I work hard to minimize my plastic use. We take our own metal straws to the movie theatre, and we won’t buy pre-packaged fruit or vegetables in plastic or foam trays. We use grocery bags made of recycled plastic for our shopping; if we forget them, we carry the groceries out in the cart.
So many small gestures in our day can make a difference. I don’t know about you, but I feel that I should make sure to consistently be a good citizen.
- “Use your napkin to wipe your mouth”. How many paper napkins get taken from dispensers, not used and thrown out? I think before I pull now, and at home we use cloth napkins that I wash with the regular laundry.
- “Say please and thank you.” In an effort to pay it forward, I make a point of using these words when I shop, including an employee’s name if I notice a nametag. I almost always get a smile, even if I don’t get a response.
- “Respect your elders.” This was about being polite when I was a kid, like giving up your seat on the bus. Now I want to include valuing their opinion, listening to their stories, learning the traditions they remember.
All these are little things.
They each take a moment out of our day. But don’t we say that life is made up of the little things?
The news is full of items on all the trends about food and eating – Slow Food, the Food Revolution, the 100 Mile Diet – but does any of it really make a difference? I mean really, in the grand scheme of things is it better if I support the local farmer who is trying to grow something here instead of supporting someone who can grow the same thing more easily farther away? And if I am healthy, what difference does it make if a family somewhere in the USA or elsewhere in the world is unhealthy from obesity, or from malnourishment? How responsible are we for the world? (Are you feeling guilty? Is your morning bagel getting stuck in your craw??)
I don’t mean to sound callous; I just wanted to get your attention. I was thinking that with Earth Day approaching, it is a good time to stop and think just how much we want to do to support our planet and its fellow inhabitants. I am a big believer in consistency – even if you only want to commit to a small amount of effort, if it happens consistently that speaks volumes. I also believe that we should be honest with ourselves, and we should be selfish about enjoying our own lives. Don’t say you want to save the planet for your kids – do it so that you can breathe easier tomorrow. Then your kids will know you mean it.
So, does that mean we should eat dirt on Earth Day? Well, a bit of dirt wouldn’t hurt… like the dirt on the carrots you can buy at the Farmer’s Market, open now for the season. I think they taste better with a bit of dirt still on them. Let’s face it, fresh garden carrots taste better any way you eat them, dirty or not. I wonder if people were mass-produced like some veggies, would they lose their character too? I think I remember reading about that in a Robin Cook novel years ago.
It probably isn’t the best day to visit a fast food joint. Something about eating processed food , even if it is now in a recyclable container, seems to go against the grain of the event. Perhaps you could work on eating meals from around the world next week – that could be fun! Not local, but fun. If local is your thing, maybe visiting a locally owned restaurant would do the trick, even if it served ethnic food from another place. Maybe just thinking about the food, enjoying the bounty, is the thing to do.
Maybe if we just take a drink of water, breathe in the air, feel the sun on our faces and the grass between our toes, that will be enough to remind us of all that we have. In the forty years since Earth Day has existed, we don’t seem to be making great progress in improving. But then, don’t they say that life begins at 40?
If you feel like you need to have a tangible reminder of your mid-life status and the necessity to care for the earth, try these cool do-it-yourself adult crafts that recycle water bottles. Your kids will think you are a cool middle-aged parent if you have a recycled lava lamp!