I was walking our dog on a recent Tuesday morning, our neighborhood's trash pickup day. The folks from the Division of Waste Management had already been by when I noticed a pile of packing peanuts laying on the side of the street. Presumably, a neighbor had poured these into the bin and did not bag them up. So here they were, resting beside the waste bin from which they had recently been liberated. I recalled hearing that our weather was expected to get fairly windy that afternoon. The liberation of these packing peanuts would likely continue if somebody didn't do something about this.
I considered my options. I was actually proud of myself for picking up all three poops that this big animal had contributed through our walk. I smugly pointed that out to my better self. I did not have time to take responsibility for all the little bits of trash that go unbagged on a Tuesday morning. The defense rested. I found myself not guilty. I sighed and continued to walk.
For our evening walk, as you can imagine, the packing peanuts had all discovered new and unique resting places: the lawn in the park; a holly bush; under a parked car. Almost none of them remained in the tidy pile on the curb where they started their journey that morning.
That's when I recalled something else. A quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel:
"in a free society, some are guilty,
but all are responsible."
I sighed again (because breathing really does help in these moments) and I picked up as many packing peanuts as would fit in my jacket pocket, which was like 8 of them.