On Christmas vacation, we sit on a Hawaiian beach and watch the waves roll in and slip away. Trotting down the beach comes a big fat dog — it is happy. It stops right in front of us, digs a hole, and leaves a little present in the sand. We look around for the owner but no one seems to own the dog. Then a woman appears who seems to know the dog and was following it along at a distance. She said that it didn’t belong to her when Terry points out the sand trap. She just giggles nervously. She and the dog wander back to the other end of the beach.
I sit here for a while, I know what I want to do. I want to take a plastic bag I carried with me and go pick it up so that it won’t be stepped it. I am somehow embarrassed. I can feel that everyone who watched this incident happen are annoyed. It feels like peer pressure to sit and do nothing more. Finally I resist the feeling and quickly go to the place with my bag and scoop the poop, then tucked it behind my chair. I hope that no one notices and contemplate how ridiculous it is to be thinking about what others think when I want to do something that I feel is right.
A short while later a young native Hawaiian man comes up the beach with a plastic bag and a slotted scoop. He is looking everywhere and scooping up things from the sand that don’t belong — bottle caps, cigarette butts, bits of plastic. Things left behind by others. The fat dog follows behind him. When he gets to us I ask if the dog is his. He says ‘yes’, but doesn’t stop to chat, just carries on with his task. I comment that ‘it’s a nice dog’. He doesn’t respond. And what would I have said he he had responded?
I sit there thinking about how this young man is not afraid at all to do something good for everyone. It doesn’t embarrass him to be cleaning the beach. I determine to pay more attention to my feelings and let my actions be congruent with them. The next time I want to do something good I’ll be quicker to have this internal discussion about the conflict in my feelings and get on with it.
I assume that he is doing this to help keep the beach clean but I wonder if he knows that by setting this example for others that he will help keep parks and beaches all over the world a bit nicer, as all of these vacationers return to where they live. Some of them will have experienced similar insights. We must not ever think that our actions exist in a bubble. He reminded me to leave every place I visit in better shape than I found it, and he also reminded me to pay attention to living a life congruent with my values — a belief that I’ve held closely for a while.