“Mom, why are there shopping carts in the creek?” Daley asked.
When we set out to help with the St. Louis River cleanup, Tim and I expected to talk about the issue of clean water, not homelessness. Yet, we had the opportunity to make the connection between the two issues when we arrived at 4920 Recycle Way for the St. Louis River Alliance’s annual cleanup. Our task was to pick up trash along the small creek that runs from the Menard’s parking lot to the river.
As we ventured into the wooded area around the creek, we came upon a huge pile of trash. With used propane bottles and tattered blankets, among other things, it was clearly the dump for a vacated homeless camp. We spent several hours hauling garbage bags out of the woods to a dumpster.
The Benefits of Including Children
Daley spent nearly the entire time helping dislodge buried shopping carts from the creek. He worked closely with two other volunteers, a father and son.
As I watched from afar, I was struck with the kindness of these volunteers. It was no easy task to be standing in the water under the hot sun while digging through heavy mud to unearth the buried rusted carts. Still they took the time to include Daley, giving him a chance to secure the rope and explaining the concept of tension. When one of the carts was finally dislodged after much effort, I overheard the father say to Daley, “We couldn’t have done it without your help.”
Gaining More Than We Give
I believe we often gain more from volunteering than we give. We meet people we may not have otherwise. We talk about things in ways that we couldn’t have without the experience. Thank you to the St. Louis River Alliance and the other volunteers for offering this opportunity to our family.
The cleanup was a perfect addition to our involvement with the One River, Many Stories community project. We learned much about the St. Louis River as a geographic landmark, a historic and treacherous transportation connector, as well as a connection point between environmental and social issues.
What do you do to keep our waterways clean? Share your thoughts in the comment box below. Thanks!