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Last week our local Lions Club went out on the Highways and the Byways…or at least Alyeska Highway…for our last highway cleanup for the year. There weren’t many of us and it took a little longer than expected. It’s three miles of highway and people can be real slobs. As you’re picking up piece after piece of garbage, you can’t help but think to yourself…”Really, someone threw this on the ground?” Let’s see, this time around we found a sleeping bag, a change of clothes, some balls (no golf balls this time), a wooden cut-out of a man, a couple pairs of gloves, and, of course, lots and lots of run-of-the-mill garbage–cups, bottles, cans, papers, wrappers, plastic bags, etc.
Now, as we’re out there we have a dilemma on our hands. There are billions (maybe slight hyperbole) of cigarette butts on the ground. They are everywhere. They’re so very small. And so, each time, we’re out cleaning we have to ask ourselves if we’re going to pick up the butts. One could definitely say that they are garbage — no ifs, ands, or buts about it. They are trash that some careless person flicked out their car window or dropped while walking or whatever. The person doing it thought (if they thought at all) that the butt was so small that it just didn’t matter. After all, how dirty could one little cigarette butt get the entire state of Alaska?
However, as was said earlier with only slight exaggeration, there are billions of those things lying around. It adds up.
And the problem for us cleaner-uppers is that it takes a lot of energy to bend down and pick up butt after butt after butt. I confess for myself that I start out each time pretty convinced that I’ll pick up each butt I find. But, it doesn’t take long to get overwhelmed at the sheer number of butts out there and how much bending over and picking up would be required to get them all. And so I give up…except if the butt is nearby another piece of garbage. I let it go unless it’s convenient for me to deal with.
How often do we fail to do the little things so that they become bigger? I have piles of paperwork to be filed here at our house. And, you know, if I’d just been doing it all along, it would be no big deal. But now the task is overwhelming. And in the church do we do the same thing, with letting things like a lack of hospitality or a lazy approaches to worship slip until they go to a point from which it’s hard to recover?
Next time I’m out there cleaning the highway, I assume I’ll start strong again and finish weak. Those little things add up.