Imagine … A parking lot. It’s packed, icy, and crawling with motorists and consumers. Suddenly, as if God Himself was smiling down on your parking lot plight, you see it: The open spot. And wouldn’t you know, it’s right up front.
Your heart beats just a little faster. A satisfied smile finds its way across your face. Maybe today won’t be so bad after all. You accelerate toward the opening, turn the wheel in anticipation, and then …
The shopping cart. Sitting right in the middle of the opening. As your smile fades to anger, the cart grins at you and audibly taunts, “Sucker.”
Oh, the satisfaction that would come by being able to ram that cart as hard as you could, busted headlight and vehicular dents be damned! But just at that moment a family with at least a dozen small children walks right between you and your nemesis. And the cart laughs, victorious.
The worst part isn’t that this scenario is familiar to so many people and shopping carts, but rather that it doesn’t have to be. It all comes down to the philosophy of good stewardship.
Have you ever used a public restroom? Sat down, done your business, and then discovered that some inconsiderate jerk didn’t replace the toilet paper roll, leaving you stranded? Have you ever worked in an office with a coffee pot? How do you feel when someone drinks the last cup and leaves the empty pot for the next decaffeinated victim to fill? Have you ever walked innocently through your own yard, only to realize your shoe was just introduced to some unfamiliar dog poo?
All of these frustrations can be things of the past. Really.
My high school band director had a whole library of lectures … And before every trip we got the talk about being good stewards. Basically his rule was this: Leave every place you visit in better condition than when you got there. Simple enough. Our director was serious about having a classy program; one respected for the quality of its performers as well as the quality of its collective character. Even as teenagers most of us bought into this idea. Those of us who did are better citizens now for it.
Here’s what it comes down to: My time is not more valuable than yours. My convenience is not more important than yours. I am blessed to live in a country with shopping carts, toilet paper, coffee pots, and man’s best friend. It is my responsibility to be a good steward of all those things.
Besides, if I know I can make someone’s day a little better by putting away a shopping cart, replacing a toilet paper roll, filling a coffee pot or picking up after my own dog, why wouldn’t I? Why wouldn’t you?
My teenage students try use loopholes. I often find myself yelling at them to clean up their area of the bleachers after a sporting event, and their typical response is either “I didn’t make the mess, so I shouldn’t have to clean it up,” or “They pay a janitor to do that.” Both of those statements are usually accurate. But here’s how I see it: They have the opportunity to make that janitor’s night easier. They have the chance to take care of someone else’s needs before their own. Have we really become such a selfish society that we are completely detached from each other … So much so that we can’t be bothered to even clean up after ourselves?
Is a janitor, housekeeper or shopping cart attendant so small of a person and profession that we can’t be bothered to take them into consideration? Do they not also have burdens to bear? Are they so insignificant that they aren’t worth lending a helping hand to?
I sincerely hope your answer, dear reader, is no. And if it isn’t, then I hope you find yourself working as a janitor at some point in your life, cleaning up after teenagers at the state basketball tournament.
I want to start a revolution, a revival of what my grandmother deemed the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We can all be good stewards. It costs nothing but a few extra seconds of our time, but the burden we can lift collectively from each other would be astronomical in scope. Imagine the frustrations we can save each other, just by regarding all as meaningful as ourselves. I am optimistic that the results could be amazing, and that’s the exact thing we all need in our increasingly stressful world.
Allow me to leave you with one of my all-time favorite literary passages to ponder:
“No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.” – John Donne
I want to start a revolution … One shopping cart at a time.