What if every one of us committed to leaving our communities and neighborhoods better than before? We’re living in a time of ecological crisis, and no one person will be able to solve that. But each of us can do something to make our world a little bit better. In this short feature you can see how I leave my neighborhood better every day — and why those daily actions have become one of the great sources of pleasure and satisfaction in my life.
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Below is an Autogenerated Transcript
I’m Ron Kaufman. I’ve been living in Singapore now for 30 years and I’ve got this strange hobby. I pick up trash whenever I go out walking and I go walking just about every day. I put on a weight vest to give myself a little more exercise and then I carry this trash picker and plastic bags.
The whole thing began when I was walking in the park with my daughter. She was four years old and I saw a soda can on the grass a little bit off the path and I said to her “hey Bri, hold on a second…”.went off, I picked it up. We kept walking until we got to the garbage can and I threw it out. That’s when she said to me, “Daddy that wasn’t your soda can”, and I looked at her. I remember saying. “you know honey you’re right I wasn’t the one who dropped it there I didn’t drink the soda but once I saw it really became my choice my responsibility”. Whether I was going to leave it there for the next father and his daughter, or son or mother or family and they were going to have to see it, or whether I was going to be the guy who picked it up and threw it away!
That became this entire hobby where it’s a daily go out into the park or out into the neighbourhood and clean it up. It still absolutely amazes me how messy people can be. I mean what kind of a sense of entitlement must come along with? I can come out to this beautiful park, have a wonderful picnic with my friends and leave all the trash, or I can go swimming and then just leave the drink bottle behind? Who is supposed to come around after you to do the cleanup? You brought it there. The garbage can is over there. Come on! we can all be responsible at least for ourselves and for those who aren’t well. The rest of us can take a little more responsibility and pick it up. The joy I get is because I’ve done something that’s going to contribute to someone else’s joy. They may not even ever know that it wasn’t as pretty as it is when they see it. But that feeling that I get from having made it a little prettier, made it a little cleaner, a little nicer, boy! That’s a real inside job.
It has just reinforced the whole sense of being in service of doing things for and with other people. Talking about making life better, it’s not just about making my life better. It’s about making our lives better that makes my life. Some people ask me if this is a sort of rain or shine kind of thing or only when the weather is beautiful and the trash is always there. I always want to get out and do my exercise. It doesn’t really matter to me what the weather is unless it’s a downpour. Then I’ll skip it for the day but otherwise, I enjoy going out to the park. There always seems to be some trash there that could be picked up. I know that I won’t clean up the whole park on any one day and I know that I can come back the next day and there’s gonna be garbage again. At least while humanity is still waking up and growing up, the challenge will always be there in the sense, never getting the job fully done. But for that piece of garbage that I picked up, I got that job done for that area that another family may walk through and it’s nice and clean. I got the job done the most unexpected.
Deeply enjoyable was when one of the park cleaners, the person who was paid to clean the park, was driving along with his little cart with garbage bags. He came up and was like dude! I looked over and he just stopped next to me and we didn’t share verbal language. But he just beamed at me this big smile. He gave me a thumbs up and I nodded. Then he just drove off and there was this sense of community between somebody of another native language, in a completely different walk of life, in the same park doing the same thing and I could tell that he actually enjoyed his work and we shared that moment of joy with each other.
Leaving this place better than you found it also acknowledges the mortality of being human beings. None of us is going to stay here for longer than we get to stay here. So what is this place? It’s a remarkable, miraculous, organic, physical, biologically vibrant place that supports being human. Some family brought you forward and you’re part of some community. But you’re not here forever.
This place that we’re in, “can we be here in a way that leaves this place better than we found it”? We know we’re alive in a time of ecological crisis and so we’re not going to solve that by any one person. But can we be open to leaving the place where we live, the relationships we’re in, the neighbourhood that we care about, the community we’re part of, the teams that we’re on, better than we found it? Can we be concerned for and contribute to the larger issues in the world that will leave the world better than we found it? We’re not going to revert back to a perfect ecological niche with no pollution and no physical difficult problems for humanity. But humanity has always wrestled with challenging problems, and always will. But can we leave this place so that the next people who come after fInd it at least a bit better than when we got here?I think we can