Gazing out the window of a downtown Bangor restaurant recently, I watched as a couple in their late 20s or early 30s walked by. In almost a single motion, the man unwrapped a fun size chocolate bar, dropped the wrapper to the sidewalk and offered the woman with him a bite before tucking the whole caramel, nut and nougat filled confection into his mouth.
Let’s rewind for a moment. Dropping that wrapper was a deliberate act — one so simple, but conveying so much. It wasn’t an oops action, quickly rectified by stooping to pick it up. He did it on purpose.
This was the action of someone who — for whatever reason — doesn’t think it’s his responsibility to deal with his own trash. Someone who clearly doesn’t see the larger problem that littering causes for the world around us. Someone who doesn’t care that there are garbage cans all over downtown Bangor just waiting to be used.
Yes, it was one small candy bar wrapper. It was one person, one moment, one act of littering. But it was also more than that. In a city of about 32,000 people, what if just 10 percent of the population behaved like that every day? How quickly would the trash pile up in the streets? How would the city’s culture change?
We’ve all heard about litter again and again and again. It’s nothing new. In the 1980s, a classroom magazine ran a photo of a six pack ring tangled in around a seagull’s beak. The story talked about how littering at beaches was killing gulls, or something like that, but that photo stuck with me. If improperly discarding the plastic that holds together soda cans could do that to birds, how was other trash impacting animals and our environment?
That gave me pause, and any affinity for the 80s culture of tossing things out the car window on the highway was severed. I didn’t want to be the person whose trash killed animals or contributed to the dirtying of our world.
I still don’t.
Fortunately, for the few who completely disregard the role they play in keeping our world clean — or dirty — there are others whose attitude is heartening.
I have a dear friend who always stops to pick up trash, wherever he is. He’s the antithesis of the man I saw on the street. Where that man didn’t care at all, my friend cares in spades. Where that man didn’t see his own trash as his problem, my friend sees trash as everyone’s problem.
And really, it is.
Unless we want to live in a world where the streets are a minefield of discarded items and stepping outside comes with an overall feeling of uncleanliness, we all should pay attention and do something. If we don’t, who will? Moreover, if we don’t teach our kids to do better, what will happen to this world?
As a mother, I am constantly reminding my kids to pick up after themselves at home. From the simple act of putting empty cereal boxes into the kitchen trash can to wiping up messes to putting away things after using them, it’s an important and nuanced lesson that helps keep our house in better order. But it’s also something that I have to reinforce again and again and again — at home, at least. Outside the home, these lessons have translated into kids who pick up their spilled popcorn at outdoor films and who carry their trash to the nearest garbage can.
But it’s more than that.
It’s seeing trash and doing something about it. It’s taking the time to dispose of trash in its proper place. And it’s wanting to make our world a better place.
It’s my hope that as my kids get older, they are more like my friend than the man on the street. I hope they notice the world around them. I hope they take pride in where they live, and help it to live up to their expectations.
This matters, and I want them to know that.
You know what also matters? Family time, eating well and doing things that make memories — like apple picking. (#AwkwardTransitions #JustGoWithIt).
We’ve reach the time of year when you can hop in the car and head off to apple orchards for pick-your-own adventures, fresh cider and donuts and more. With corn mazes and hayrides beckoning, there’s so much fun to be had. And once you’ve picked all those apples, what will you do with them? Some will be destined for pies. Others may fill turnovers. But save a couple and whip up these soft, moist Iced Apple Oatmeal Cookies. You’ll be glad you did. With a glaze lightly flavored with cinnamon, and a dense, soft center, these cookies are a delicious treat for fall days. You might just find yourself tucking several into your mouth. I encourage you to do so.
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 apples, cored and shredded
- 2 cup all purpose flour
- 2 cup rolled oats
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ cup hot water
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp milk
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter and sugars and cream together until smooth. Add the apples and mix well to combine.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, oats, baking soda and salt. With the stand mixer running on its lowest speed, add the flour mixture a little at a time until fully incorporated.
- Add the hot water to the stand mixer and mix on low until smooth.
- Use a medium cookie scoop, or two tablespoons, to drop the cookie dough in mounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden.
- Transfer cookies to a cooking rack and let cool completely.
- To make the glaze: Stir together the glaze ingredients. Drizzle on completely cooled cookies and let sit for at least 30 minutes to set. For easy cleanup, set the cooling rack on top of a parchment lined baking sheet before glazing.