I believe in miracles. I know many people do not, but Easter is a wonderful time to remember that miracles do happen. I have experienced several in my lifetime — some that were big and incredible and that I know made a life-changing impact on me. I also experience many small miracles that confirm how good life is just when I need a gentle reminder that this world is full of wonderful things.
In the past week, I experienced three small miracles that may seem silly to some people, but actually did mean a lot to me. Three times, I saw items blow or fall out of truck beds in vehicles ahead of me. No, that is not the miracle. That kind of thing happens pretty frequently on our roads. The miracle is that the drivers of all three vehicles pulled over, turned around and went back to pick up the boxes that had blown out. Now that is a miracle.
I have seen people retrieve their trash before, but it’s usually because I don’t hesitate to catch up to the drivers of those vehicles at red lights, roll down my window and politely inform the drivers that they just lost some trash on the road. I do not recommend doing this because, in this day and age, some people just might let you have it for that. Thank goodness the two drivers I talked to were gracious.
I know that someone picking up trash they dropped may not be everyone’s idea of a miracle, but for me, it really is. Litter prevention is all about awareness and personal responsibility. A simple message, really: You drop it — or lose it out of your vehicle — then you pick it up and dispose of it properly. That seems simple, so it is funny that it takes full-fledged programs and activities, like volunteer cleanups, to compensate for personal responsibility. Unfortunately, that is the case. Still, I witnessed three little miracles recently, and that gives me hope.
Litter does not just spoil our scenery. Debris on our roads can have a severe impact on wildlife that often mistake trash for food and eat it. It also eventually can end up in our waterways, affecting the water quality and killing or injuring aquatic life. Roadside litter is one of the most problematic causes of water pollution.
Litter and debris also can cause serious road hazards. The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety reports that roadway debris contributes to a number of fatalities each year in Georgia. The enforcement of unsecured loads is one way to increase motorist safety. I have had several times where boxes and other items have fallen out of vehicles in front of me. The worst item was a piece of wood that blew off a truck (going more than 65 mph) in front of me and hit my windshield. Luckily, that situation turned out all right for me, but that is not always the case for those who are victims of other people’s carelessness.
Litter caused by unsecured loads also is costly for taxpayers. County and state governments have to spend a tremendous amount of money cleaning up the mess that litterbugs create. Each year, more than 1,500 volunteers donate thousands of hours cleaning up streets and roads throughout our community. Just think about all the other ways those volunteers could have helped their community if litterers would just be responsible for their own trash.
Litter cannot be solved by the cleanup process alone. The heart of the issue lies in holding accountable those who litter intentionally by directly tossing trash on the ground as well as those who cause it by letting items blow out of their vehicles. Those who let litter blow or fall out of their vehicles “accidently on purpose” still are responsible for their actions and the consequences that affect those of us who live here. We all share a responsibility to keep our community clean and beautiful. Garbage and other items in vehicles should be secured. The use of garbage bags or containers to haul trash and the use of tarps, nets and/or covers to secure items in trucks can make a significant difference in the amount of litter accumulating on our roads. We should all do it. After all, it is the law.
But I am still happy with my three small — but worthy — miracles. Thank you to each of the local citizens who turned around and picked up your litter. It really does make a difference.
Upcoming Keep Liberty Beautiful events
• Turn UP the Sole: Share your shoes with the Turn UP the Sole Campaign in April. Here are the drop-off sites for shoe donations:
Hinesville — city hall, fire department, police department
Liberty County buildings — courthouse annex lobby, health department lobby, chamber of commerce, board of education
Flemington — city hall
Midway — city hall
Walthourville — city hall
• Sixth annual Earth Day Celebration, from 3-7 p.m. Monday, April 23: There will be free family fun for everyone, including a “picnic for the planet.” So pack your picnic or buy one for from the concessions stand and join in celebrating the Earth at the YMCA soccer field at the corner of Mary Lou Drive and Tupelo Trail.
• Community cleanups: Flemington and Riceboro cleanups are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 14. Flemington volunteers should meet at Flemington City Hall.
Riceboro volunteers should meet in the Head Start parking lot. Hinesville and Walthourville cleanups are Saturday, April 28.
Hinesville volunteers should meet at 8 a.m. in Main Street Park. Walthourville volunteers should meet at 8:30 a.m. at Walthourville City Hall.
To volunteer for this year’s Great American Cleanup events, call Keep Liberty Beautiful at 880-4888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All cleanup supplies, a picnic lunch for cleanup volunteers and free T-shirts will be provided.