NOTE: There are grand quotes and deep truths and weighty arguments ... and then there are neighborhood hassles. This post falls under the latter category.
I'm not sure what started it, I only know that I witnessed it. "IT" was a little blue bag containing some pup's puppy chow -- post digestion. The problem with "IT" was that "IT" was not in the garbage but on the asphalt sidewalk of St. Andrews Blvd, one of my daily walking tracks.
Apparently some neighbor gets kudos for picking up after their pet, but deserves a time out for dereliction of duty in the dumping department.
The blue bag sat for a day, then two, then three . . . then a week . . . . Hmmm, it seems our puppy-loving pedestrian dropped the goods and didn't realize it until it was too late. We'll cut him some slack for that. But then came a second bag and a third. "Houston we have a problem!"
Days stretched into weeks. Weeks lengthened into a month. The bags sat on the sidewalk -- two blue and one green -- mercifully the bags held the goods without breaking.
Conflict experts would tag this situation "intractable," as in difficult or impossible to deal with -- at least in a friendly manner. Neighbors were hunkering down. No one was bringing out their Pooper Scooper to clean up the mess. This is Boca Raton, baby. Clean up after your pet! Someone even posted a sign urging the outlaw to "pick up your poop." It did no good.
I was ticked. After six children and enough pets for a petting zoo I have officially retired from animals. I know you love your dog and I'm okay with that, just don't use my yard -- or my walking path -- as your dumping ground.
When I wasn't fuming over the insensitivity of the person who created poopgate, the super spy in me entertained ideas of 24-hour stakeouts and mounting motion-activated video surveillance. Watch, Witness, and Pounce -- that was my mantra. I couldn't wait to read someone his Miranda Rights. "Gotcha you neighborhood party pooper!"
Those ideas were short lived. Too much time, too much money, and too much "eye-for-eye."
Last week I took another approach. Hiking south on St. Andrews during my early morning walk I noticed the bags were still there. Yeah, the Hatfields & McCoys have nothing on us. This problem wasn't going away. Then I did what I knew I should do:
- I wish I could tell you that the words of Edmund Burke came flashing to mind, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Those words did not come to mind.
- I wish I could tell you that I mused on the Christopher's motto: "It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." I mused not!
- I wish I could tell you that the memory of Mother Teresa motivated me out of my malaise. No such vision appeared.
But I acted!
I found some discarded paper in the swail. With all the gentleness of a demolition expert I picked up the paper . . . careful to gather as few germs as possible. I set the paper on bag #1. Next, I took a giant leaf from a rubber tree and put it over the paper (double protection). Using my makeshift glove I plucked bags #1, #2, and #3. I carried the entire disgusting mess to my house where I deposited it where Mr. Pooper should have placed it in the first place -- the garbage can.
So why did I do it? Certainly it wasn't advanced degrees in piety. I've shared my heart on the matter.
Then what? Two verses come to mind:
- But the fruit of the Spirit is love (Galatians 5:22 ESV). Too often we confuse love with feelings. Love acts long before it feels. I suspect that on most days love acts in spite of how it feels. Jesus teaches us this. The Spirit empowers us for this. Love is an action before it is a feeling.
- So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (James 4:17 ESV). Too often we confuse obedience with conformity to external laws, to what people can see and report. While obedience involves that, it is really more a matter of the heart. Obedience is acting on what we know we should do -- no matter who sees it. The Spirit convicts of us this.
At the end of the day, someone's got to pick up the poop. Love knows this and it acts. Sin refuses, mounts a stakeout, and waits to pounce.