I have said many times, in many mediums that there are only two acceptable reasons to litter:
- Someone is threatening to kill you if you don't throw your empty McD's bag, water bottle or losing lottery tickets out of the car.
- Continuing to carry your grocery bag of wing bones, bag of chips, or half-eaten burger will impeded your ability to run away from a would-be assassin.
When I went to confession just before Christmas, I told the very traditionally conservative priest that whenever I pick up litter, I often wish something bad on the person. Not death. Nothing serious. But I find myself saying things like "I hope you were throwing up all night or had a horrible hangover the next day" when I pick up a beer can. Or "I hope you felt your chest tighten and stained your shirt" as I pick up a fast-food bag and ketchup packets. and, my most often "I hope you get into a coughing fit and that your lungs don't turn too black" (I did not mention that one to the priest). The priest, who actually chuckled, told me that if I felt this way, it might be best to stop picking up litter. I told him I was not sure I could. He also suggested I pray for them. I tried that for a few days. Then I was back to cursing people, though a little less often.
When I was nearly done with my walk last night, and had filled my bag with a variety of things, I noticed a piece of mail in a yard near ours. I walked a couple of feet into the yard and saw an official-looking envelope addressed to the woman who lives across the street. I hated to leave it there, as it would surely blow away. I figured the mail carrier dropped it (our neighborhood has had plenty of issues with mediocre mail people). I decided to pick it up and walk across the street. Because I had my dog with me, I did not want to ring the bell, so I just put it in the already full mailbox. And then I went home and told the hubs, who was quite upset. I get it. It was wrong. The neighbor whom I barely know might have thought I was taking mail from the box and could have called the police. In fact, there is a chance, although remote, that one day when I walk into someone's yard to pick up some trash, the homeowner might accuse of me something. I intend to call the police to ask what I should do in this situation. Unfortunately when I was walking last night, I also came upon a raw hamburger patty in a grocery bag that my dog almost got to. This was the third time in two months that someone has tossed out raw meat (the last two times it was a single chicken breast) in the same location. Some local people think maybe someone is trying to poison animals in the area. I hope it is not that. But I figure a phone call will not hurt, though a police officer might laugh when I call.
In the meantime, I will likely keep on picking up litter and attempting to keep my little part of America clean. And hopefully I can resist the urge to stop walking into others' yards to try to keep their places clean. As for wishing for hangovers and coughing fits? I am still working on it. Lent does start next week!