Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wooly bears and litter

I was waiting at the train station for my wife to return from a doctor's appointment in Boston.  A teenaged girl was sitting on the platform waiting for the same train to go back in.

Everything about her was an anachronism.  Her hair, her clothes, her jacket and backpack all seemed to be from another time. If I had snapped a picture and told you that I took it in 1974, you would have no reason to doubt me.

She was eating something that came wrapped in small pieces of paper that were now scattered around her on the platform.  I watched as she unwrapped another bit and casually tossed the wrapper to the ground.

I was annoyed and tempted to say something sharp, but I decided against the chance of a verbal altercation.  I'd just ask my wife to wait in the car and pick up the mess myself after the train headed back out.

The train pulled in and the young girl shrugged her backpack into position.   Then she carefully gathered up every bit of paper, stood up, and deposited it all in the nearby trash barrel.  I was too astonished to be pleased.  If she had noticed me at all, she might have wondered why my jaw had dropped slightly open, but she simply walked toward the train and was gone, along with my "this generation doesn't give a damn" rant.

I was reminded of that last night as I was talking to my almost but not quite 40 year old daughter.  She was telling me of rescuing a wooly bear caterpillar that had chosen the heavily traveled street near her train station as a place to cross into another copse of woods.  My daughter had picked up the intrepid traveler and carried it to a quieter side street where she released it into a place she hoped it would find suitable for wintering.  She told me that it remained quietly curled up in her hand for five minutes of her walk and then, deciding that it wasn't going to be eaten, began moving around again.  She hoped that it would be safe, or at least safer than it had been on that busy street.

I asked her why she was at the train station mid day.  Was she meeting her husband home early from work?  No, she explained, she was just on her trash walk, picking up the litter that uncaring commuters leave on that same street where she rescued the wooly bear.

I wondered if she had volunteered for some community project in that regard?  No, she had just become personally annoyed at the carelessness of her follow townspeople.  She knows she cannot stem the tide, but she says what she does is noticeable.  

I told her that I am proud of her, but she already knew that.


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