As I drive throughout the county on an almost daily basis, I can’t help but take in the abundance of beauty. Whether it’s a green pasture full of cows in Empire or a rusty old railroad trestle in Cordova, our county is full of wonderful aesthetics. I can’t even describe the beauty of a sunset on Corridor X — a sight I get to see several times per week.
Unfortunately, Walker County’s natural beauty is sometimes tarnished by the amount of litter along our roadways and in our parks. Many times, the same roads that are highlighted by God’s amazing creation are also lined with trash.
An incident last weekend greatly brought our litter problem to my attention yet again. The family and I were traveling down Bryan Road in Sumiton near the city’s community center. I noticed a handful of teenagers walking on the sidewalk in the opposite direction. Just as I noticed them, one of the teenagers nonchalantly tossed an empty soda bottle into the yard they were walking past.
I was immediately ticked off.
I honked the horn of our van as we drove by, but the group of teens just waved.
Something had to be done.
As we pulled to a stop at Main Street, I put the van in park, looked at Andrea and said, “I’ll be back.”
I got out of the vehicle, turned toward the thoughtless teenagers (who were probably 100 to 200 yards away), cuffed my hands beside my mouth and screamed “STOP LITTERING” to the top of my lungs. The teens turned, looking fairly concerned at this point, to see what crazy person was yelling at them. They picked up their pace as they walked away and I re-entered our van.
As I re-joined my family in the vehicle, I noticed all five of them had their jaws dropped. Even Joy, the 1-year-old, looked shocked. Andrea said, “What was that?”
With a straight face and in as serious a tone as I could muster, I said, “I can’t stand litter bugs. They make my skin crawl.”
About 10 seconds later, just as we crossed Main Street, my 7-year-old Breeze burst out laughing and in her best impression of me said, “STOP LITTERING!”
“I thought Dad was going to kill those kids,” said Stone, our 9-year-old.
The entire car then burst into laughter. I’m sure Joy was fairly clueless to what had happened and she was even cracking up.
For the next 10 minutes, Stone, Breeze and Daisy would take turns saying, “STOP LITTERING!”
Many of you may be asking the same question my wife asked me as we drove. Why did a 30-something year old man find it necessary to scream at some random teenagers about their littering?
In a few years, my kiddos are going to be teenagers, and I don’t want them to be disrespectful punks. They will probably find themselves walking down the street with some of their friends. If someone in that group decides they want to toss some trash down on the ground, I expect my child will think back to the time when they saw their dad let a bunch of random teenagers have it over an empty soda bottle. If strangers got me that fired up, imagine how upset I would be if my own children turned into litter bugs. Hopefully that will at least make them think twice about letting some trash hit the ground.
I look at littering as a matter of respect. If we have respect for ourselves and for the people around us, we should have the decency to hold on to a empty soda bottle, a paper wrapper or any other piece of trash long enough to find a proper trash receptacle. We should also have enough respect for our planet, our country, our state, our county and our city to put trash where it belongs — in a trash can.
I would like to officially start the “STOP LITTERING!” campaign in Walker County today. If you see someone littering, stop what you are doing and scream out, “STOP LITTERING!” If possible, go pick up the trash they had thrown down and put it in its proper place.
If my way seems a little too in-your-face, just do your best to not litter and pick up trash wherever you may see it.
James Phillips is Editor of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at 205-221-2840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.