There are many things that irk me.
People putting their feet up on furniture, smokers, and those yakking on their phones in public.
Caregivers Tweeting rather than giving care, along with dog walkers who sit instead of walk.
Our prevailing tactless, Teflon coated medical community who’d prefer a round of golf over their Hippocratic Oath.
Abandoned animals, wives who ignore their husbands, and the big kahuna of them all, littering.
You’ll often see me early in the morning picking up cans and potato chip bags, candy wrappers and various parts of the newspaper. I just can’t help myself. I used to cause scenes whenever I saw someone litter, but now let them see me pick it up, hoping it will embarrass them enough to think the next time. And I learned this gentle tactic from a woman I knew named, Beth Sutherland Nelson.
I wrote OUCH back in 2011 to remember her. It’s one of my favorite essays, not because I wrote it, but because of her…
When I was 18, I shared a beach house with a bunch of wonderful people in Lordship, Connecticut. There was one other woman living there by the name of Beth.
Beth eventually married Mickey and they had three kids, her youngest being a girl. She taught Amy who was 3, anytime she saw someone litter to say OUCH, on behalf of the earth. Witnessing this, if you were lucky enough, melted your heart. This wee creature stunning people into picking up what they carelessly threw away.
Beth died of breast cancer fifteen years ago, but her sweet, gentle parenting still resonates.
I live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and the conspicuous consumption, especially where children are concerned, is off the charts. Yesterday I met a 3 year-old with his own iPhone so he could call his grandparents in Miami. It made me a little sad not to mention envious since he was also wearing Gucci loafers the size of Twinkies.
Children aren’t really children anymore. They’re just short adults forced to answer to taller ones. I have nothing against smart Upper East Side kids fortunate enough to attend the best schools, learning things that make my head spin. I only wish they could still be kids a little while longer.
The biggest parental responsibility that seems absent, is good old-fashioned common courtesy.
Today when I saw a five year-old toss his empty M&M’s bag on the sidewalk, I watched the parents who saw it too, ignoring it as if littering was perfectly acceptable.
Parents should be required to take a test. You can’t man anything even remotely dangerous without a license, so should raising kids be any different?
No, I didn’t lecture nor show pique oddly enough, but when passing them, I did pick it up and say, OUCH, on behalf of the earth.
God bless you Beth, wherever you are.