I had talked about doing it for a few weeks. Finally, I got off the couch and moved. I opened the door of the kitchen cabinet under the sink and took out two big black trash bags. I walked out through our front door, down the driveway, and began. . . .

There was nothing glamorous about the work, but I reminded myself that sometimes it is important to work for your community even when it doesn't feel like you are doing much. I leaned over, and with just two fingers I gingerly picked up a cup and straw from a fine fast-food establishment called Checkers down the street. I tried not to think about what germs might be multiplying on this nasty cup and made a mental note to buy a pair of gloves for next time. I moved on down the street and picked up pieces from a broken pot on the sidewalk. I picked up candy-bar wrappers. A few liquor bottles. Beer cans. Coke bottles. Empty bags of chips. Glass fragments. A plastic bag. A syringe. (Oh, God, protect me!) Gum wrappers. On and on. It didn't stop. . . .

A homeless guy I had never seen in my life yelled at me across the street. "Hey, I think you missed a few," he shouted. "Over there in the bushes, you missed a few." Thanks (I think . . . ), I thought.

I picked up the trash in the bushes and realized my two bags were full, so I turned around and started walking home. As I walked back just four blocks, I saw more and more trash littering the streets and parking lots that I hadn't even touched and didn't have enough space for in my two measly trash bags. I put the trash out in our green trash bin and walked back in the front door. Done, but not done at all.

As I slumped down on the couch, trying to feel good about what I had done, I realized what I'd just experienced. It was a short story of what we all hope to do and what we all have to overcome and what we all hate to do and what we all need to do and what it takes to leave an imprint on this world.

We live in a world with so many problems. Media inundates us with image after image of overwhelming need. We want to make the world better. We want to change how we see the world. Sometimes just getting started is the biggest hurdle. Then we finally dive in and realize that dealing with messes means we might get dirty. We actually have to touch the problem. Let me warn you now: there are plenty of chances to quit along the way to making a difference. But we can choose to sweat it out, tackle our feelings of discomfort, and work through the messiness of the problem.

Copyright 2013 Jeff Shinabarger. More or Less published by David C Cook. Publisher permission required to reproduce. All rights reserved.

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