The Feeshko, my wife, has been trying to get me to do some volunteer work for years. Her reasoning is very persuasive: She says I should show my appreciation to the community. I should give a little bit of my time for those less fortunate. I should volunteer for the benefit of all. I should consider some altruistic activities as being good for my own mental health and development as an adult. I should just generally stop being so selfish.
Her prodding is not just empty gobbledegook. As long as I’ve know her she has volunteered regularly at her church, at the local food shelf, and in the area of adoption support. She has also done stints (with our kids in tow) serving holiday meals for the poor and homeless in St. Paul, providing day care for needy parents, giving rides to medical appointments for the elderly, and doing some other stuff that I can’t think of right now. In other words, she’s sort of a Mother Theresa of MY Town.
But I’ve always had some excuse for not volunteering: “I work long hours and I need my down time.” “Charity begins at home.” “I think I can best serve my community by staying out of the way.” “Yes, I know it’s volunteer work, but there are still people telling you what to do and I don’t need any more bosses.” “My brain can’t even GRASP the concept of working for no pay.”
Well, The Feeshko and I were walking our dog on the bike-pedestrian trail near our home a couple of days ago and I told her about this Thanksgiving Challenge. When I said I was thinking about picking up litter along some of OUR Town’s bike trails, she practically did one of those exaggerated double-takes like the ones you might see The Skipper do after Gilligan says something really, really stupid.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said. “I’ve been nagging you to do something GOOD all these years and you’ve done nothing but resist. But as soon as one of your biking buddies on one of your biking websites suggests it, you’re all-in.”
“Yeah, but this is something I can easily do. Ride my bike. Pick up some litter. No bosses to answer to. No co-volunteers to socialize with. I remain completely anonymous. (Anonymous except for bragging about my generous volunteerism on this worldwide website.)
She shook her head. I shook my head. I’m not sure, but I think we achieved a new level of emotional closeness.
As we walked, I kept a keen eye out for trash, thinking I could come back later and pick it up while riding my bike. Unfortunately for me, Minnesotans, as a whole, are a pretty neat and orderly bunch of people. I didn’t see a single discarded candy wrapper, beverage container, cigarette butt, banana peel, or shred of paper on our entire circuit of the pond. What the heck?
But we did see something else–something we’ve commented on many, many times before while walking our dog. This is where the filthy, nasty, and thoroughly disgusting part comes into play. Sad to say, some dog owners do not clean up after the, shall we say, “mess” their dogs make. The Feeshko and I are not like THOSE dog owners. We diligently pick up Diggity’s waste every single time, and we find it repulsive to come across piles of other dogs’ feces in our favorite natural areas. Suddenly, I came up with a noble cause for some serious volunteer action!
I gathered up a bunch of plastic bags from the house and then I set out to slowly pedal along several miles of trail, patrolling for poop. Whenever I saw some of those offensive droppings, I stopped to pick them up. Not only did I clean up the area around our local dog-walking trail, I also moved on to another trail near the nursing home where The Feeshko and I have often seen senior citizens walking their lap dogs and where we’ve seen numerous little mounds of doggy-doo. After that, I finished up on MY Town’s portion of the Mississippi River Trail.
Over the years, I’ve become accustomed to picking up my own dog’s excrement, but today I really detested cleaning up after other dogs. It seemed so dirty. But then I remembered–it’s for the greater good of the community. The Feeshko will be so proud of me when I show her my pictures.