Performing random acts of kindness

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It has been quite a week in the Washington D.C. area, with an earthquake on Tuesday, and a tropical storm on Saturday. We were very lucky to get through it without a power outage; we almost always get one when there is severe weather. Phew!

I was about to head out to the gym today, but somehow, without quite realizing I had decided to do it, I found myself headed toward my usual bicycle trail with a Camelbak, a trash bag, and a pair of garden pruners. I was concerned that the trail would be full of debris from the storm, and very probably some fallen trees as well, so I went to check it out and see if it needed some clearing.

I got to a section I'm familiar with after two detours to avoid roads that were closed due to fallen trees. The trail was not quite as bad as I had expected: there were plenty of sticks and leaves littering the trail, but most of them were smaller than I had feared. Nonetheless, I spent the next hour and three quarters painstakingly removing sticks from the trail, first by hand, and later with a makeshift broom fashioned out of tree branches. I picked up some litter as well.

I was a little bit out of my comfort zone, but I decided not to worry about the reaction I got from people as they walked, jogged, and biked by me. Some people just ignored me, as if people like me were a normal occurrence on the trail. Some actively turned away. Others rang their bells and called out "Passing on your left," as if I were just an obstacle on an otherwise clear trail. A number of people thanked me. One person said "Sorry!" as he cycled past. I wondered what for, but he didn't answer my question. Interesting, isn't it?

I know that our local government usually does a pretty good job of taking care of the trail, but with all the things that have happened this week, I figured it would probably at least several days before they could get to it. I took care of maybe half a mile of trail. Considering all the others I couldn't get to, I hope that someone else may be inspired to pick up a few sticks too. It would help keep it a great trail for all of us.
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