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The Indian Taught Her Every Litter Bit Hurts

September 07, 2002|TRICIA SHORE | Tricia Shore lives in Van Nuys.

It was just a napkin, thrown under the swing by the little girl sitting beside my son at the park. He was in his first big-boy swing, after graduating from the infant playground.

At just 21 months old, he loves big kids and emulates their behavior.

The little girl, 5 or 6 years old at most, was eating a corn cob on a stick--the cool playground food. Already someone had taught her that it was OK to litter, OK to discard an empty wrapper on the ground. She stared at me and I stared back, behind my sunglasses.

I remember the Indian on the TV of my childhood. He cried at the thought of people littering his beautiful America. I remember his sad look. I never threw anything out the car window and I discouraged others from littering. My home state had a slogan, "Keep North Carolina Green and Clean."

Was I a part of the little girl's village? Was I close enough to her to say something?

A man I presumed was her father sat on a bench, not watching her. I hope that I will not become so jaded as a parent that I fail to notice my child throwing litter on the ground. I wondered how many slack parents and guardians are responsible for raising the litterbugs who throw garbage onto L.A.'s freeways. I think of the Indian every time I see a food wrapper, a soda cup.

After a few minutes, the girl got out of the swing. Presuming we are all part of the same global village, I finally said to her, "Are you going to pick up your paper?" She ignored me or did not hear me.

My son continued to swing. I cannot say why I care enough about our world to buy household products that are environmentally friendly. Perhaps I can attribute my love of recycling to the Indian. It was his world that I fell in love with, his vision that I want to be safe for my son and my unborn child. I want to keep this land green and clean, but I often feel as though I am alone.

As much as I like to think that my contributions to keeping our environment healthy will help, I see the trash on the roads. I hear about plans to dump a large amount of bleach into sewage that will go into the ocean. I wonder how much my recycling helps. However futile it may be, I do not allow myself or my family members to throw trash on the ground.

After the little girl left, an older boy, 10 or 11, took her place on the swing. His friend almost immediately began pushing sand over the wrapper with his foot, not stopping until he had covered it completely and built a mound above it. Perhaps he was thinking what I was. He removed the evidence from our sight, but we both knew it was still there.

Sometimes I want to put on gloves and start cleaning the city from one end to the other. But that seemingly infinite task does not coincide well with being the pregnant mother of a 21-month-old. StilI miss the Indian. I wish he were with us today, teaching a new generation to take care of our land.

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