Saving the World

I did not go to yoga class this morning. I didn’t go yesterday either. I briefly contemplated this lack of self-care as I sat in my light-filled, cinnamon-scented kitchen, savoring each gooey bite of warm cinnamon roll. Pristine slices of bright green honeydew melon watched the carnage from the side of the plate. It was obvious they weren’t in any immediate danger.
It was an electronics filled morning. The wall-sized television in the living room provided a constant stream of one-sided conversation. Much like that one friend who won’t shut up, but rarely says anything memorable. The TV cannot be seen from the kitchen, so my laptop and phone kept me company on the table, providing the visuals I needed to distract me from confronting my poor choices.
Some guilt must have seeped through the electronic barrier I had put in place as protection from my thoughts, because an hour later I found myself pulling the locked door closed behind me and walking down the driveway, right past my car and onto the sidewalk. Apparently, I was walking to work today.
It was a good day for a walk; the weather was improving, but not yet hot. I looked like summer in my fashionably cuffed jeans, black leather Mary Janes, and bright white tee-shirt with just enough decorative trim to pass as work appropriate. I carried my shiny black crocodile-patterned designer handbag past the construction on my street, turned the corner, and headed two blocks over to the slightly nicer neighborhood on the ridge. That’s where I encountered the first human beings I’d seen all day. We greeted each other with tiny waves and quiet hellos, although we did not know each other.
I continued along the ridge to the staircase most recently made famous by the muggings of school children by an as yet un-apprehended thug. A fellow area resident had thoughtfully hung a plastic grocery sack at the corner of the railing at the top of the stairs to collect trash in. As I passed, I noticed that there was much more debris in the general vicinity of the bag than actually in the bag. It crossed my mind that I had misidentified a ghetto basketball hoop for a trash bag.
I found myself fantasizing about what I would do if confronted by a mugger, as I picked my way gingerly past the broken glass and abundance of discarded tall boy beer cans littering the stairs. I’m not great at shutting up. I’m not great at tolerating injustice. On the other hand, pain and/or death do not appeal to me. I consider this question regularly when I descend this staircase on the way to work. I still do not have an answer.
I emerged from the staircase without incident, then pressed the button to activate the walk signal just before the light changed. Perfect timing! I always feel like I’m somehow on display when I have to wait at that corner for the light. Only I wasn’t really just in time, I guess, since the “Don’t Walk” signal continued its red glare. I defiantly crossed anyway.
Working my way toward the uphill portion of my commute, all I could see was the trash edging the sidewalk. More beer cans, a flattened straw summer hat, an old sponge, the ubiquitous cigarette butts, more broken glass, this city dweller detritus did nothing to brighten my walk. Did no one take pride in their neighborhood? Was I the only one who didn’t want to live in a dump? I did not belong here, surrounded by garbage, in my chic outfit and designer handbag. These thoughts swirled in my brain, dampening my mood.
Approaching the corner where my ascent begins, I saw a pedestrian across the street. He had almost reached the corner where children congregate in cooler seasons to wait for the school bus. He looks just as out-of-place as I feel, carrying with him an industrial looking orange dustpan and broom. He stops at the corner and begins to puts his tools to use.
In the last ten minutes, I had been discouraged by my surroundings and increasingly disappointed in my neighbors. During those same ten minutes, one of my neighbors had found opportunity in those same surroundings and taken action to benefit his neighbors. I was grumbling about the state of the world while he was saving it. I realized in that moment, to my dismay, that I’m part of the problem.