This morning as I placed the plastic bag-wrapped dressings from my roommate’s MRSA infected wound in the trash can we had already brought to the end of the street, I did some damage control. I noticed cardboard sticking out of a neighbor’s bin. I opened it to find two cardboard boxes with some plastic wrapped around them, and plastic rings from a 6-pack. I’m okay with people who put easily-recycelable material into trash cans, and even un-cut 6-pack rings (slightly more challenging, I admit), but I’m not okay seeing something so easy to take care of and leaving it myself. I ripped the turtle-killing rings all apart, removed the plastic from the cardboard boxes, flattened them and brought them back to my home where our recycle bin is. It took maybe 3 minutes.
I have a friend who might have done the same thing–at least with the 6-pack rings–but he also tells me over and over that no fewer cows are getting killed if he doesn’t eat meat, and no fewer styrofoam take-out containers are being produced if I use one for taking the rest of my dinner home. But for me that’s not the point, true though it may be. For me it is a question of, “What can I do to most positively impact life–mine and all other beings?”
I’m reminded of the starfish story in which a person is seen picking up one starfish at a time on a beach full of thousands of them and tossing them back into the water, where they need to be to survive. The person watching says to the one picking them up, “There are just too many, there’s no way you can make a difference!” The thrower responds by picking up another, tossing it back into the sea, turning to the observer and stating, “Makes a difference to that one.”
No, I don’t believe I can single-handedly save the world, or even my life, by recycling, picking up trash, cutting 6-pack rings, bringing my own containers to restaurants, buying and eating local, organic and whole food, speaking and thinking in joy and positivity as much as possible, and smiling a lot. But if it makes a difference to one, then why isn’t that enough?