Yesterday I went to Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester to read, swim, and enjoy the sunset.  Arriving at low tide, I walked out past some lovely rock formations on the way to the ocean.  Yet what goes around comes around, and the tide began to steadily come in as the evening wore on.

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Wingaersheek Beach Rocks, August 2015

After my brief swim (these New England waters are frigid!), that’s when I saw them.  I looked over as I situated my beach chair further back from the water and discovered that there was trash on the beach—two empty plastic bottles of water and an empty plastic yogurt container.  My thought process then went something like this:

I can’t believe those people, whoever they are!  Why do people do this?  Why leave your trash behind on this gorgeous beach? 

There’s seagulls everywhere and the tide is coming in… this plastic could end up in the ocean and kill a fish or something!  What were they thinking?

(Smugly sips water out of L.L. Bean Waterbottle and returns to reading book about Jesus in the Gospel of John.)

Wait a second, what am I thinking?  I need to get that trash before it ends up in the ocean or these poor seagulls try to eat it or something!

And that’s what I did.  Picked up trash on the beach that had been discarded by those who came before me and put it in my beach bag to take home.

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Wingaersheek Beach Sunset, August 2015

But here’s the thing, self-righteousness is a toxic state of mind/spirit.

My go-to response was judgment of “those people” I will readily admit!

Then I got a grip on myself.  Thankfully, I had the words of Jesus literally in my hands as I remembered that I had the power to act in that moment.  To get beyond judgment and get off my high horse and do something good.  To pick up the trash and take it home and recycle it, to ensure that this one particular spot would be a little better for those who came after me.

Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Abundant life includes helping God mend the world wherever we are, and picking up trash no matter the circumstances.  We can be the hands and feet of Christ in the world!