There’s a woman in our neighborhood who walks our road daily. She’s a saint! Every day, no matter the weather, you will find her collecting garbage – in the ditches, in the bushes, in the tall grass along the roadside. I often see her when I’m out in the early morning hours, running. We chat sometimes, and I thank her, profusely, for her tireless efforts to preserve the beauty of our country road; her constant act of picking up the trash that careless people discard as they drive by.
She hasn’t been down our way in quite a while- we live about four kilometres apart. So, when our stretch of road was recently littered with the refuse of a McDonald’s meal, I donned a pair of gloves, grabbed a garbage bag and headed out with the dog, to clean up the mess.
Now, before you say, ‘good for you,’ you must hear the rest of the story. I was angry, snatching up the burger boxes, straws, napkins and cups, and grumbling to myself. I just don’t understand people who find it acceptable to open their car window and fling their garbage onto other peoples’ property. How do they, in their right mind, justify their actions? These are not the things I muttered as I collected the remains of some family’s meal. My words, though not profane, were unkind. Ignorant was uttered more than once.
How does she do it? I wondered, plucking at the burs that caught on my socks and my sweater. How does my neighbor have the patience to pick up the garbage day after day? Over and over? How is she not frustrated by the actions of careless people and why doesn’t she just give up? The further I walked, the more I admired her spirit, her determination, her generosity…and her love.
When I take the time, God leads me, eventually, in the right direction. Two things were whispered in my ear, as I tromped along. 1.) God loves these litterers as much as he loves me; we are equal in his eyes, so I should get off my high horse right now. And 2.) my neighbor is a caring, loving person. My actions were not loving ones. I was doing the right thing in the wrong frame of mind.
The words from scripture that I, as lector, read aloud a few weeks ago, came back to haunt me. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. James 2.18. My works, it seems, need a bit of work, so what does that say about my faith? Margery Frisch