My family spent last Saturday morning on the river bank, picking up the kind of Gluppity-Glupp and Schloppity-Schlop that Dr. Seuss wrote about in his children’s book, The Lorax, which chronicles the plight of the environment.
We woke early that morning without the fanfare of green eggs and ham to participate in this city wide endeavor to involve residents in cleaning and preserving one of our natural and most precious resources – our waterways.
While no one wants to pick up someone else’s trash, no matter what fun Seussical name you call it, the day couldn’t have been more glorious. The sun fanned its rays warming the cool chill in the air, the flowers boasted spectrums of color that can’t be found in a jumbo-size box of Crayolas and the grayish-blue river pulsed peacefully and rhythmically as if the gentle breeze was singing it a lullaby.
I chose to volunteer at a section along the river walk where I routinely exercise with several dear friends. For years, we have walked over two large bridges that link different sides of our downtown and along the expanse of this part of the river walk.
We lose the weight of our worries on these walks as we talk about everything from dying parents to our own parental concerns for our children. It’s not all morose; we are friends and as such delight in everything about one another from the trivial to the triumphant.
And, we do this amid the stunning backdrop of our downtown buildings that stretch to the skies, and the arches of our bridges, which stand in homage to the vast waterway that flow beneath them.
We regularly spot dolphins, yet each time we squeal in delight as if it’s our first encounter. We stop our stride to marvel at the pod of shiny gray mammals. We count them. We wait in anticipation as one of them goes under water wondering where it will surface next. Then, as if it were our own lungs under the water we breathe a sigh of relief when the mammal resurfaces and we have another opportunity to admire this delightful creature again.
So, here on this particular stretch of waterway it seemed fitting to restore the purity of this life-source by purging the trash that laps along its borders.
“You made the heavens, even the highest heavens and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You gave life to everything and the multitudes of heaven worship you,” Nehemiah 9:16.
God gave us the earth to dwell in, but also to respect as a living thing — a gift of the majestic work of His hands. We are called to honor that gift, even if it means donning a latex glove and climbing on concrete rubble along the banks searching for trash like it was treasure.
We were each handed a large sky-colored trash bag to fill and while my kids scurried down to the rocks between the river and the walkway, I initially honed in on the multitude of cigarette butts that followed the trail. But eventually, I succumbed to the greed of wanting bigger and more unique trash for my bag and I joined my family
We enthusiastically searched for trash like we were on an Easter egg hunt. My boys, who had been reluctant to get up early on a Saturday to pick up litter quickly realized it was more exciting than cleaning their bedrooms.
We announced our favorite finds with pride. My eldest son was thrilled to discover a coconut and my youngest unearthed some body spray that to my annoyance he wanted to use to fragrance the air. My husband found a fishing lure, and I, a very long snake skin which was exciting until my husband stated the obvious, and I realized maybe this serpent lurked nearby.
Of course, there was the ho-hum trash you would expect – water bottles, soda cans, cartons of milk and orange juice, chips bags and popped balloons.
When we were finished, we carried our heavy bags like badges of pride. Each was filled with souvenirs of our expedition, every piece of trash an offering of penance for whomever is responsible for the pollutants.
Best of all, we were happy. We spent a peaceful morning outside with the God-given gifts of nature, and now they were a little bit closer to their intended form. I couldn’t help but think that the Lorax, who adamantly advocates for the environment in Dr. Seuss’s same-titled book, would be pleased.
“You’re glumping the pond where the Humming-Fish hummed! No more can they hum, for their gills are all gummed. So I am sending them off. Oh, there future is dreary. They‘ll walk on their fins and get woefully weary in search of some water that isn’t so smeary,” said the Lorax to the ever polluting Once-ler.
I can’t read that book without getting teary. There is something about the cadence of Seuss’s words, the innocence they convey and how it contrasts with the alarming environmental message that just makes me want to plant a Truffula Tree and protect it from all the Once-lers in our world.
Of course everyone knows there is no such thing as a Truffula Tree. Still, I am pretty sure the likes of the Once-lers run rampant. You know the kind of individual, company or country that subscribes to the Once-lers philosophy.
“I meant no harm. I most truly did not. But I had to grow bigger so bigger I got. I biggered my factory. I biggered my roads. I biggered my wagons. I biggered the loads….I went right on biggering…selling my Thneeds. And I biggered my money, which everyone needs,” said the greedy Once-ler.
To defile any of God’s creation whether it be for money, carelessness, or just the need to bigger your business, is disrespectful to God. “I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and you made my inheritance detestable,” Jeremiah 2:7
The gifts of nature are uniquely profound and they give and sustain life. To honor that is to honor God, and to preserve that for the generations that follow is a legacy that has more value than a forest of Truffula Trees.
I reluctantly let my eldest son bring home the coconut he found. When we were talking later, I listened to the wonder in his voice as he spoke about where it might have come from. He thought maybe, just maybe it could be all the way from Polynesia.
While I doubt that hairy coconut is from that far away, I hope that he can travel to such places someday; to see the natural beauty that God gave us to enjoy; to remember the lessons he learned as a boy. But for that to happen, for nature in its intended form to endure; we all need to live like the Lorax and be good stewards once more.