This morning I drove my son to the high school at 5:30 am for a choir field trip. He was dressed up and looking very nice, as were all his fellow students.
As we pulled up along the sidewalk bordering the school, the first thing we and most others noticed was a large, heavy garbage can that had been filled with trash now tipped over, its contents dumped on the ground by some thoughtless soul. I watched a number of individuals steer around the garbage can and its spill in order to get to the waiting buses. I imagined their thoughts were similar to the following:
What jerks. Now someone else is going to have to clean up this mess. Its not my job. I'm all dressed up. I don't want to get dirty. And I didn't do it. There's someone who gets paid to clean the campus. How disgusting.
I made a comment to my son as he stepped out of the car with his bag that I wish the world were more thoughtful. Then I told him goodbye and to have a nice trip.
There are moments in life when your kids upset you to the point of tears. And there are moments when they make your heart swell with admiration to the point of tears.
I watched my son walk over to the pile of trash and stop to look at it. Most of it consisted of leftover food and paper packaging. He put his bag on the ground and spoke to the next student to approach who was dressed in a white shirt and tie. The young man set down his gear and proceeded to help my son set the garbage can upright. Then I watched these young men go the extra mile and pick up every last disgusting piece of leftover food and soggy trash to deposit it back into the garbage can in which it belonged. A third student stopped to stand over them, watching. Then a parent emerged from her car with hand sanitizer and wipes for these young men. They proceeded to get on the bus when they were done, but the consequences of their actions lingered, shouting out loud for others to understand. No, it wasn't their mess; they didn't make it. It wasn't their job; they weren't paid to clean up trash. And no, they weren't dressed for doing a disgusting job. But they did it anyway. They were thoughtful and kind and decent anyway.
These are the young people I hope will lead the world someday.