This evening after church my wife and I stopped by our local grocery store to pick up a few things we had run out of during our busy week. As we turned down the aisle toward the toilet paper, we nearly ran into another shopper who was making a choice at the end of the aisle. She drew more notice than she normally would because she was supplementing her shopping with a bite to eat. I’m not sure what it was, but it was in a paper wrapper like what would wrap a cheeseburger.
Having narrowly avoided an in-store collision, my wife and I continued our shopping, going from one side of the store to the other as we remembered something else we needed to get. As we crossed back toward the dairy section coming from produce, I noticed on one of the end caps of Coke products a paper wrapper. That same wrapper that caught my eye when we first entered the store. The wrapper that contained the snack that other shopper was eating as she shopped. That wrapper was now trash on a display.
I get it. At the end of a long day, as you’re doing some last-minute shopping before returning home for the night, carrying around a paper wrapper until you complete your shopping can be extremely burdensome. I understand that trying to find a trash can while also rushing to finish your shopping can be an enormous waste of time. I can relate to not wanting to bulge my pocket with trash I will no longer need. I realize it’s so much more easier to just lay it down and let someone else throw it away, perhaps someone who has more time or is less weary.
As I watched for that weary shopper, my wife tried to convince me not to say anything to her. As we passed her in the parking lot, my mate urged me to mind my own business. But as we drove away, I felt defeated; as though I had failed the human race.
As more time has separated me from this event, I’ve tried to give this woman the benefit of the doubt. I’ve tried to understand that perhaps she had an awful day. Maybe she had some physical disability that forced her actions. Maybe she was unaware of our cultural norms. But I couldn’t come up with an acceptable excuse for her actions…or mine.
As far as what she did, it boils down to selfishness, pure and simple. She didn’t want to deal with her trash so she left it for someone else to deal with. It was all about her.
As for me, I allowed myself to just not get involved and by keeping to myself, I was just as guilty as her in putting the work onto someone else, and perhaps (likely) perpetuating her selfishness, at least in the realm of littering.
I know by now you’re probably saying, “Really, this was all about a piece of trash?”
Well, yes…and no.
Perhaps it was more about my decision to not saying anything -to not get involved- than it was about the late-night litterbug. Maybe if I say something when I see somebody litter, the grocery store would be a cleaner place to shop and the grocery store workers would be more pleasant, not having to pick up after selfish shoppers.
But really it’s bigger than just a piece of trash and a pleasant shopping experience.
Selfishness isn’t limited to late-night shoppers and grocery stores. We see selfishness nearly wherever we go. Think back over your day, how many times did you notice someone being inconvenienced because of someone else’s selfishness. If you’re like me (or if you take the time for honest assessment), probably many.
With all the trouble we’re seeing across our country these days, I dare say the majority of it is because of selfishness. I don’t need to make a list, you’re already forming one in your mind.
So how should we respond when we encounter selfishness? Obviously as a Christian, I should respond in love, but we should still respond. It’s the lack of a proper response over the last generation that has produced the world we live in today. We let selfishness have its way, so it continues, on and on and on. And it will never stop until we decide to respond, to get involved, and say something like,
That’s enough. Grow up. Think about somebody other than yourself.
What if you would have just picked it up and thrown it away for her? A trash can is in the front of the store and in Subway dept. Just a thought.
That’s a good thought, and often I do. However, if we continue to “pick up after” other people’s messes, what do they learn? To continue on their selfish way because somebody else will clean up after them (or whatever may be revealing the selfishness).