Years ago I was strolling down the sidewalk during my coffee break in the summertime. It was a beautiful day along the river with gardens on the other side of my path. Along the way I came across two senior men drinking on the park benches and throwing their beer cans over the edge, into the river. What did I do? I kept walking. I was irritated they were doing this, but they were drunk and I didn’t feel anything I said was going to make a difference.
I continued down the path, enjoying the fresh air, free time and rose garden at my turnaround spot. I had successfully forgotten about the drunk men at the park bench. But upon my return, there they were again, throwing cans over the edge and even more drunk. I continued to bite my tongue and walk past them with no intention of commenting on their littering ways.
Suddenly, one of them started cat calling me. I stopped and turned to them…at this point, I could no longer keep my thoughts to myself. If he would have just watched me walk by, then nothing more would have ensued. As it was, however, I ignored the harassment, and began to ask them why they were throwing their garbage in our public space.
I don’t remember the exact conversation after this exchange, but it didn’t go anywhere productive. After a few sentences, expressing my disappointment, saying they were wise enough to know better, yadda yadda, I turned to walk away. They both kept talking to me, then yelling at me the further away I got. I was embarrassed. And then…
I hear another man from a block away yelling at these guys to, “leave her alone!”
Oh my goodness! I thought, ‘chivalry is not dead’! To have a complete stranger go out of his way to protect me, or the planet, or humanity, whatever his mission, was totally heartwarming to me. By this point I was quite a ways down the sidewalk, and decided to just keep on walking, but not before I gave the new man a nice smile and nod of thanks. He continued to argue with the men but I was too far away to hear their conversation.
These senior men had just received their government cheques and were celebrating with some beers. (I was living in a small town, I know this to be true.) Presumably they had bigger issues in their lives, than worrying about litter. I did feel compassion for them, which is why I never approached them about littering in the first place.
Now I want to know what you would have done? In the comments below, give me some alternative reactions I could have taken? Or if you were the man who interjected, how could he have handled the situation differently?
Sometimes life throws us a curveball, and we don’t react in the best way, or how we would have if we had time to think about it. That’s OK, we learn and share and grow from all these experiences. Ultimately, in this scenario, I was trying to show my activism and care for the planet without persecuting the men. It’s experiences like these that I’ve learned some things about activism in our communities. For more information, get the Everyday Activists Guidebook for free, and see what unique alternatives you can take to contribute to a better world, that still has drunk seniors! lol!