Picking up trash is mundane. Picking up trash is a chore. Picking up other people’s trash is not my job.
Yet picking up trash is respectful. Picking up trash teaches kindness. And yes, picking up other’s trash is not my job. But it’s still the right thing to do.
Picking up garbage sends a message to your kids: We need to take care of the world around us. It shows respect for your neighbors and for your fellow park goers. It is a kindness to give others a less cluttered landscape. It is a gift to offer those who come behind you something beautiful to look at.
The next time you are out on a walk with your children, look for trash you can safely pick up and throw away. Tuck plastic bags into your stroller or diaper bag to keep little hands clean. Explain that while you may not be able to pick up every piece, by picking up just one or two pieces you have already made an improvement; doesn’t the grass look prettier without the wrapper on it? What might happen if a squirrel tries to eat that bit of plastic?
A question that children often ask is why they should have to pick up after others who don’t care enough to do it themselves. I’ve always reminded my kids that the only way we can get people to care and change is to show them that we care. When people see us caring how our neighborhood looks, they might not change their ways immediately but they may pause the next time they think about throwing trash on the ground. That pause is a foot in the door for change.
Little steps matter. Often people have the mindset that if they can’t fix the whole problem, or clean the whole park, then why bother. We need to gently remind our children that even little gestures can add up to big change. Like steps in a marathon. On its own, one step doesn’t seem like a big deal. But put hundreds of those steps together and suddenly the finish line is in sight and you have achieved something truly amazing.
And if your children are too young to pick up trash themselves? Be the example. If they see you consistently taking care of the world around them, they will be more inclined to do the same.
Back it up with a book: Pick Up the Park (My Little Planet)