Don’t you find that, when someone starts a conversation with how their way is the only way to do something, you get an immediate knee-jerk reaction to argue? Case in point: I had a friend in college who was passionate about littering and was determined to stop it anywhere he saw it happening. In the time I knew him, he must have lectured hundreds of litterers. (To be fair, he always carried a bag with him wherever he went and picked up all the litter and trash he found.) Those he lectured were not happy about it. In fact, he aggravated so many people that some of them made of point of littering right in front of him just to wind him up. The result? No one stopped littering because of his rants on littering. What did make people change was seeing him picking up trash–and shutting up about it.
It is human nature to react badly to criticism. What makes it worse is when we hear it and we know deep down inside that the person is right. But our natural stubbornness makes us do the exact opposite; we want to decide for ourselves how to act. You can call it preaching, talking AT someone (instead of TO someone), pontificating, whatever–it tends to make us humans cranky and recalcitrant.
I will fully admit that, on a scale of mental, spiritual and metaphysical evolution, I am pretty far down on the totem pole. Even when I KNOW better, I still fall into unthinking knee-jerk reactions. I realize that so much of what we hear is other peoples’ views and that their yakking on about them is really all about them, not me.
Just this morning I was taking a walk around the beautiful pond in our town. As I walked along, admiring the yellow buttercups and Indian paintbrushes, the white daisies and the pink rambler roses, I saw a young woman walking a little dog. The woman was talking on her cell phone while her dog squatted and pooped in the roses. I watched as the woman noticed, then turned away. She never did pick up her dog’s poop, nor did she appear to even have bags with her.
Well, that ticked me off. I love that pond and all the beauty that surrounds it. Most people I see with dogs always clean up after them; to me, that’s part of pet ownership and responsibility. But all too often I see attitudes like this woman’s, which seemed to be, ‘oh well, dogs WILL poop and it’s all natural so why should I pick it up?’
Of course, that was just my own head talking; who knows what she was thinking? I SO wanted to go up to her and ask if she had ever heard of cleaning up after her pet. But, it was a beautiful day, I was enjoying it fully, and I didn’t. I didn’t even give her a dirty look. I hate confrontation, and hate judging people even more.
So, these days I take a bag with me and pick up whatever litter I find. I admit I don’t do it every day, but I am hoping to do two things: 1) be the kind of person I’d like others to be, and 2) be proactive instead of reactive. Hey, it’s a small step, but it’s a positive one. It may even help me be a better person.