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The Rev. Dr. Lillian Daniel The Rev. Dr. Lillian Daniel

The Rev. Dr. Lillian Daniel is senior pastor of First Congregational UCC in Dubuque, IA. She is a speaker and author of several books including "'Spiritual But Not Religious' Is Not Enough."

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Lillian Daniel: Litter Bug

May 17, 2013

Excerpt from Psalm 23

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me."

Lillian Daniel

There's an early scene in the television show Mad Men, set in the 1960's, where the family enjoys a picnic. The children and their parents enjoy a lovely meal on a checkered blanket next to a pond in a scenic park . Then they get up to leave. After they put their picnic supplies away in the basket, they are left with all the trash on the blanket. The mom blithely picks up the blanket, shakes the trash out all over the grass. She folds her blanket neatly but the family leaves all their litter behind on the ground without comment.

The scene is funny, almost unbelievable. They seem unaware of how offensive their behavior is.  That picnic scene takes us back to another time when people littered without guilt or self-consciousness.

I remember childhood car trips when my family tossed trash out the window.  I remember littering.

And I also remember when I learned that littering was wrong. "Don't be a litter bug," became a slogan in the culture.  I would say it to my parents. Other people said it to me. As a country, we tried to say it to each other and collectively change our behavior, so that our parks would be beautiful for the next family who arrived for a picnic. We learned.

Today, people still litter. But most of us wouldn't shake out our trash after a picnic, at least not in front of other people. We know it's wrong.

At this time when our church is focused on the environment, and joining the wider church in Mission 4/1 Earth, I can get overwhelmed with everything we have done wrong, and with how much there is to do. Sometimes it seems like too much, hopeless even.

But then I remember littering. And I remember when I learned it was wrong. We can learn. We can change.


Creator God, create in us a healthy outrage at the state of your world - not so much that we are paralyzed but not so little that we are oblivious.

Taken with permission from the UCC's StillSpeaking Devotionals

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