I Saw One Person Make a Difference This Week
Over the last 5 days, I’ve noticed a woman with a green apron showing up to a little park at about 730am every morning. I can see this little park right from the window where I do my morning reading and writing.
She takes out several bags from her car and goes around the picnic tables and grounds to collect the trash people left the day before.
As people start arriving to the park to walk their dogs or bring their small children to play, some approach her and start helping her pick up the trash. One day, I saw about 6 or 7 people helping her at once. They all collected trash from different corners of the park and brought it back to where she was collecting it all so she can sort out the recyclables. Other’s pass by and take pictures of the piles of trash formed by this woman and her fellow residents.
Someone from the town comes by a couple of hours later and picks up that trash bags she leaves behind.
I wondered, does the town know she’s doing this on her own and with help from local residents? Does the town employee arrive and wonder how the trash got so organized? Or does he simply pick it up and put it in his pickup truck?
On the fourth day I observed this, something different happened
A police car arrived and pulled up onto the park grounds where she was sorting trash. About 10 minutes later, another person arrived, wearing a sport jacket. Looked too well dressed for helping her collect trash. He was accompanied by another man dressed a little more casually.
After some conversation, they all posed for a picture taken by the casually dressed man.
Most of the time they were there, she rarely fully stopped picking up trash and sorting it. Even while talking to the police and the well dressed man, she continued to pick up trash and sort it. It was clear she was committed to her mission even while receiving some sort of recognition for the work she was doing.
Inspiring Others to Join Her
Perhaps the most inspiring thing about all of this was watching other residents simply coming to the park for their morning dog walks and other activities stopping to talk to her and help her. Every day there are different people stopping to help her. And today, she was by herself. She arrived a little earlier than usual.
But she’s always there. Showing up. Consistently. No matter who is watching or helping. Everyday, she saves bags worth of recyclables from being disposed of with the regular trash.
There is a special power in this type of leadership. The power in simply doing something, not because you have to, but because you believe it’s the right thing to do. And if you do that, and others happen to see you, you give them permission to do the same. This is leadership.