The Self-Proclaimed Litter Warrior.

Yesterday I had the privilege of finally seeing a movie called, “A Walk in the Woods” about a famous travel writer named, Bill Bryson who wishes to rage against the inevitable hazards and realities that tend to come with aging. Life in his sixties has become a parade of funerals, medical ailments, and sedentary habits. One day he sees a sign pointing in one direction toward Maine. The other direction points to Georgia. They were two polar extremes that are only achieved by ten percent of those who made the attempt. Exactly ten years ago I had succeeded in completing that same journey after having hiked seven months and nine days – it took me a lot longer than the average person who hikes it in five or six months! People ask me how I managed to accomplish such a feat, and I sometimes ask myself the same question after having experienced a lifetime of failures, which were mostly social due to having a case of Asperger’s syndrome. It is very simple.

I had an idea and refused to let it go. Furthermore, there was nobody who could stop me from walking or seal my fate like others had done in the past. There used to be employers who decided that I was not “right” for a position when they had not even given me a fair chance. A potential romantic partner had the right to turn me down, and no amount of persistence could change her mind. In so many cases, relentless persistence made situations worse and moving on was the only possible option. The Appalachian Trail rewarded my persistence and nobody could possibly take a single thing away from me during those seven months. This is how I felt when a nasty cigarette butt was picked up with my new litter claw, which had been ordered from Amazon.com.

Over the past week, I have spent at least an hour after work picking up garbage with my claw. The students I work with in the College Experience Program (CEP) should not have to walk around in a ginormous ashtray created by a small minority of Albany citizens who are unable to handle the extra manual labor required to put out a cigarette and dispose of it in the nearest trash receptacle. There are other articles of garbage all over the place. The best types of garbage to pick up are the ones like plastic cups that are solid. The worst articles are what I define as the “Parchment Garbage!” This is trash that has become so eroded that they have already broken apart in many different pieces like ancient parchment paper. Therefore, one has a choice of spending forever trying to pick up every molecule or giving up and hoping that nature will someday destroy it completely.

There have been many ideas over the past ten years after completing the entire Appalachian Trail. Most have died a natural death considering they proved to be unrealistic or others were not on board to help make it become a reality. Or another kooky idea replaced the previous ones. But this idea has stuck around for quite some time and we have control over whether to accept the fact that Albany is covered in litter. While picking up the litter, I had fantasies of throwing some of the litterbugs into an enormous bin of their own filth that has been strewn about this fair city over the course of their lifetimes. But then I realized that so many people are used to doing what is easiest for them. In this case, I will do what is hardest for myself to help alleviate a societal problem.

My thoughts turn to the students within the College Experience Program (CEP) who are doing the absolute best they can with different challenges. Regardless of whether they will soon be out here picking up litter alongside side me…I know they will be supportive and hopefully some of the positive attention this project garners will trickle down to their lives. We move forward as individuals although our hearts beat as one or something to that extent!


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