An Open Letter to the Class of 2016: Pick Up Your Trash

 

graduationUsually advice given to a graduating class is full of inspiration and motivation so that you don’t give up once you are launched into “the real world.” This letter could be both or neither. And truth be told, you most likely won’t read this anyway. But just as I believe that some of you stop listening to me when I speak in front of your class, I will still say what I planned on saying. Not because I love listening to the sound of my voice, as soothing as it is, but because one day down the road you will be jolted back in time, and perhaps, this is the moment that you will remember. I then imagine that you will smile and shake your head, simultaneously, and say something like, “That Ms. Swisher was brilliant and knew exactly what she was saying every single time she said something.” Or, out of frustration that I am still in your head after all these years: “Damnit!” But I digress.

Pick up your trash.

I know what you’re thinking: This is impossible! How could I ever do such a thing?! And my initial response to you will be, “Of course you can! You can do anything that you set your mind to!” While my response sounds silly, your thinking is even sillier. Picking up your trash says a lot about your character, and not picking up your trash says even more. But instead of focusing on the negativity – selfishness and elitism – of the latter part, let’s focus on the positivity of the former. You see, picking up your trash shows more about you than you could ever describe in words.

When you pick up your trash… you are showing love and respect to the world in which you live. You care so much for God’s creation that you actively work towards making it a better place. You are recognizing that this is your temporary home – a home in which you love – and you want to make it as nice as possible for future guests (aka generations).

When you pick up your trash… you are recognizing that you are not the sole inhabitant of this world. You are not picking up this trash for pure enjoyment; rather, you are picking up this trash because you know that others live here too. You are doing this so that the next person – whether that be your neighbor, your boss, or your mother – does not do it for you because it is not meant for her/him to do.

When you pick up your trash… you are demonstrating the responsibility that you accept as a human being. You are saying that you created this trash, and it is your responsibility to pick it up and throw it away. This trash belongs to no one else and, therefore, should not be left for anyone else to pick up.

When you pick up your trash… you are beginning to prove to the rest of the world that you are mature and warrant the title “adult.” But only when no one else tells you to do it, and only when you do this every single time. And when this happens, don’t assume a round of applause or an award will be waiting for you. When your maturity level reaches adulthood, you are expected to do this. If you would like to live in Neverland, you will forever be treated as a child. (Childhood is all fun and games until you’re 45 and still living with your parents.)

Now that you are graduating and entering what society categorizes as “adulthood,” I will give you at least this one piece of advice: Pick. Up. Your. Trash.

 

Sláinte! (with water, of course)

 

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