A simple act of community kindness

Published 1:11 pm Wednesday, January 4, 2023

It was a selfless act. She sought no attention or recognition as she left the path next to the busy road as pristine as it was meant to be.


She caught my attention because all of my life I have abhorred roadside litter and trash. Even as a teen driver, I would never throw anything out my car window. The annual Memorial Day weekend pike fishing trips I used to take deep into the backwoods of Northern Manitoba were marked by our insistence that anything that we carried in we also carried out.

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Roadside litter cannot be excused. It occurs only because there are no consequences for those who refuse to cover their loads or who throw out the remains of their fast food meal.


On Silver Creek Road in Mill Spring, a heavily traveled road that I drive every day, I first began to notice full and tightly tied plastic garbage bags, one about every 100 yards. A day later, there were more. And finally, I saw her, a woman picking up the roadside trash and placing it in a bag.


I pulled over and watched from a distance. Clearly, this was not a lackadaisical effort. Her white plastic trash bag had been placed in a gray, five-gallon Lowe’s bucket, which was about to overflow with cheap beer cans, McDonald’s cups and burger wrappers.


She was dressed for her mission.


Her gloves were the type that are cloth on top and a rubbery coating on the palm and fingers, the kind we wore nearly every day on the farm. Her shoes were a moccasin, heavy socks keeping her feet warm. Only a few inches of her faded blue jeans showed below a beautifully patterned cotton skirt with small flowers. Her modest skirt’s elastic waistband was pulled well above the belt line. She wore a long-sleeved cotton shirt with a button-down collar. Her hair was wrapped in a bright white cotton cloth. It might have been a dish towel.


She made her way along the opposite side of the road from where I had parked, never looking up to acknowledge me. I rolled my window down and thanked her for doing such a good deed. She nodded, but quickly looked away and resumed her work.


I drove away. But I couldn’t stop thinking about her good deed. I wanted to meet her, to thank her face to face. On my return trip, I pulled off the road again, but this time I got out.


Walking toward her, I noticed that although she obviously knew I was present she never looked up to acknowledge me. I apologized for intruding. She quickly looked up, smiled for a nanosecond below her bookish glasses, and then continued her work.


I said I didn’t want to be a pest but I hoped she knew that what she was doing was such a wonderful show of kindness that I had to ask—-why?


“I just like things to look nice where I live,” she said, adding that she lived in a trailer a half mile or so from where we stood and talked.


That day, I felt that I had met someone who really cared about her community and was proving it without seeking the slightest recognition for it.


Thank you, Dorothy. Wish that there were more like you.


Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at hardscrabblehollow@gmail.com