The Common Good and the Pooper Scoopers

Some quiet people move among us and only occasionally do we notice these angelic beings.

I was driving to the supermarket not long ago when I saw her. A tall woman warmly dressed in a long coat, striding along with a huge plastic bag of garbage in one hand, and a “grabber” tool in the other. One of my good friends! She walks long distances every day. Several times a week, she picks up trash from our city streets as she walks. She’s identified a couple of businesses that will let her use their dumpsters, as there’s way too much for her own garbage can. I asked her what the most common piece of litter is. She said it is, sadly, the little liquor bottles. People have started to notice this woman who looks out for our community.

A retired teacher walks my trail, too, and she also has a grabber. We don’t have quite so much litter here, away from the bustle of downtown, but like a neighbor once told me, “The road in front of our house is located exactly one Happy Meal away from MacDonald’s,” so she finds plenty.

A woman walks the Grand Forest, not far from me, with a child’s rake. Besides pedestrians, horses use this trail, and she rakes off anything they leave.

Another woman walks the Fort Ward park trail with a child’s beach bucket and tongs to pick up after dogs whose owners are not looking out for us. She is a special woman who deserves a clean walking path of gold in her next life.

All women? Not always. Before Covid, an older man walked our road several times a week with a clippers in hand. It’s a popular walking path, but bushes along the road reach out to grab you if you’re not paying attention. He clipped those wandering tendrils as he walked. Sure, one day’s clippings hardly made a difference, but after months and months of doing this, he maintained that trail for us.

I had to check definitions of “the common good.” Ordinarily, the “common good” refers to those things that benefit everyone in the community, like roads, libraries, fire protection, and public education. Public art is a common good. I know not everyone would agree, but I think health insurance is a common good because the more we eradicate communicable disease–viruses, etc, the healthier the whole community is and in the long term, we save money. We all benefit. But that’s a subject for another day.

These pooper scoopers are working for our common good without asking anything in return, and I love them for it!

“We don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” — Howard Zinn