I recently read a "Where is he now?" type of story on Michael Dukakis, the erstwhile governor of Massachusetts and presidential candidate. He's presently a college professor. But for me, all of this pales when compared with one of Mr. Dukakis's personal habits.
He picks up trash.
Not as a career choice. Not as a hobby. He does it as an expression of the person he is. On his way to work he carries a plastic bag. When he sees a paper cup or piece of paper or hamburger wrapper on the ground, he stops, stoops, and scoops.
While others might chuckle or even sniff disapprovingly at the thought of an ex-presidential candidate routinely picking up litter, I found immediate kinship with the man. For I, too, am a trash picker-upper. And I have my plastic bag to prove it. (I keep one tucked in my left hip pocket. Semper paratus!)
Long before I read the Dukakis article, I had built de-littering into my daily walks through my neighborhood. Large swaths of scrub grow where I live, and for some reason these areas have been interpreted as perfect "throwing grounds" for all sorts of refuse.
Bottles, cans, coffee cups, gum wrappers. I've seen - and retrieved - them all.
I call it the Moscow subway Ideal.
Let me explain. The Moscow subway is a polished marble wonder of design - sleek, tasteful, artistic, and immaculate. Tremendous muscle went into building it, and constant vigilance keeps it pristine. The Russian philosophy is that if the subway is kept beautiful and clean, people will be inspired to do their part to maintain it that way.
In pausing to pick up the litter that mars my walks, I emulate a Moscow subway employee. I have an image of how lovely the woodlands near my home truly are - so picture perfect in their way that the smallest item of refuse is an abomination to my eye. A quick dip of my hand is all it takes to help restore the environment to its native state.