Littering Stinks


doritos in trash

Every now and then you find the stresses of your day, week, month or year sneaking up on you.  If you are anything like me, you find yourself closing your eyes and taking a deep breath too frequently.  And if you don’t, odds are you are going to lose it.

Usually the need for a deep breath is a pretty solid sign that you let things go too far.

Sadly, we all struggle with knowing when you need to recharge or let go.   Usually it’s only after we have screamed at the dog, the toaster, or the kid that we know that stress has built up.

Sometimes, it catches us completely off guard as it did to me this past fall.

The incident occurred on what would have been an otherwise normal lunch walk.   Each day, when the state isn’t iced over, I make the quarter mile walk from my office to Subway for a healthy lunch.

(Note:   On January 2nd, our temperature dropped to -9 degrees, and with the slight wind, it felt like -18…  There will be no walks to Subway for at least two months…)

As I make the trek, I have to cross a fairly large 4 way intersection.  

After crossing over the intersection, I saw a beat up red, dodge neon, with music playing way too loud, and speed into a stop for the red light.

There were two teenagers in the car; and to put it bluntly; they were obnoxious.

They were loud.   The music was load.  Apparently they thought the town was built around their very vocal escapades.

In no way was that sentiment more evident than in the act I witnessed as I was about 5 feet from the car.

Although I wasn’t paying attention to the punks, and I was trying to avoid their glance at all cost, I was called to it, when the passenger let out a squeak and said something akin to:

“Gosh Golly, this potato chips, stink”.    Except the words he included were much fouler.

As he said those words, he proceeding to cuss again, and throw the half full bag out the window virtually at my feet.

For a second or two, I continued to walk.    Maybe it was the use of the Lord’s name in vain, or the combined obscenity of these two bratty kids, but a few steps later, I stopped, said out loud:  “Oh no you don’t” and proceeded to walk back to the car.

The kindly, well tempered Pastor you know and love was now gone.

As I approached the bag of potato chips, I scooped it up, walked into the street to the passenger side of the car, where the window was fully rolled down.

Without thinking I said “HEY!,…  You forgot something” and proceed to put the bag on their window, and put the wiper on top of it.

In the common flair of typical Scott articulation, I added the exclamation point to the moment by saying:

“Littering Stinks”

At the last moment, I caught their bug eyed expression as I walked away.

I wasn’t a few feet away, when a new thought came into my head:

“What in God’s name were you thinking Scott?”

By the time I had made it the new few hundred yards to Subway; I started to work through a 100 possibilities of why that was such a bad idea. 

What if they had gotten out of the car?

What if they had gotten out of the car and started swinging?

What if they had a gun?

In hindsight, I had escaped a bullet.   Yet, I told myself, in the future I would think twice.  Each of you can cuff me ever so gently in the back of the head as my appropriate due.

It wasn’t those two teenagers that got my goat.   It was a week’s worth of stress.   It was a boss pushing too hard.    It was a to-do list that grew too big.   It was a never ending list of things that needed doing yesterday.    It wasn’t those kids.

I guess I need or I should chalk it up to a lesson learned.

Although it was the right thing, It was a risky, and spur of the moment.   At the moment I thought I was Captain Ecology saving the world from polluters, really I was just Captain Dum-Dum.   Looking back at things it would have been wiser to pick my battles, and simply pickup the bag and throw it away.

Yet in that moment, one thing stood out I hope you consider;

Although there are sometimes in life you should listen to that little voice and others ignore it, either way; doing the right thing is often scary.

As I walked away, I kept asking what if?  As I did, I knew that the risk was too great for one bag of chips.

Yet there are things in this world that speaking up regardless of risk is something that should be done.

And…  As you do, you need to know that your heart will race, your palms will sweat, and your knees will shake.

Doing the right thing is scary.

Considering the bug eyed expression of those two teenagers, having the right thing done to you,…can also be a scary thing too.

You don’t need me to tell you that faith is often times scary.    It so often requires us to step outside of our comfortable  pew and take a risk.   We take a risk speaking up or standing up for someone, and we take a risk, simply by spreading the invitation.

I hope that when the time comes each of us understands the moment where we need to take a breath and walk away, and those times when we have to take a breath, wipe our brow and step out into the street.  We have got to be unafraid of both.

(Pic Flckr.com/Ramson/2007)

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