WITH HIS BIGGEST GRIN, my toddler came to show me the water balloon he was gifted from a friendly mom at my neighborhood playground.
I knew this moment would come. I tried to be ready for it from the beginning, when he was still snug inside my belly safely under my heart. But no, I was not ready. I knew there would be a time when the world’s sense of right and wrong and its belief system would crash into our belief system and what we, as a family, believe to be right and wrong. And that we would have to carefully navigate the balance of instilling truth and goodness in our children without making them self-righteous jerks.
That it came in the form of a water balloon blind-sided me.
My husband and I try to minimize the harm we cause nature. We often feel like hypocrites or that it is meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but we try to not abandon all sense of responsibility.
We try to not create unnecessary waste, though in the practicality of modern life waste abounds and it seems simply unavoidable. My husband even opened a vintage store because he just could not stand all the good quality furniture and other useful things just being crushed by garbage trucks and shipped to landfills.
All in all, I always feel that the steps we take pale in comparison to the real harm being caused to nature, harm which we are part of. And yet, I do take hope in that our modern ability to cause harm also has the potential to do good. For example, I believe wastefulness is inherently bad. If for no other reason, that it is being ungrateful to the Father who has given us everything.
However, I take heart in that modern technology has made landfills less harmful to the environment. So at least, all our waste does not end up in the oceans throwing a plastic wrench in the natural order of things.
I get mad when my kids do things to overly mess up our home; I imagine God is not very happy when we trash the home He created for us.
Which brings me back to my toddler at the playground. It may be because my children are so young that I had not seen this before, but I felt horror when I first saw that seemingly nice people would find it acceptable to give their little children water balloons in the dozens, if not the hundreds, to throw at each other for a moment of fun and relief from the sun. And then make no attempt to clean up the discarded plastic bits in our common public area, letting them go down to the city water drains.
Of course this is not the first time I am shocked by people’s behavior and it’s not the first time I saw examples of extreme littering. So I tried to shake it off, realizing there is really not much I could do about it.
That is until the problem hit home with my son now being engaged in this very activity. I really did not know what to do. The lady who had given it to him had shown kindness and generosity to him when he was watching her children having fun. It was kind of her to include him in the fun too, even if I really thought the whole thing was kind of messed up.
I decided he was too small for me to really explain any of this to him, so I smiled back at him and made sure he picked up the remnants of his balloon when it exploded and then strategically moved away from the water balloon fight.
Problem solved. Except no, not at all.
Weeks later, we are enjoying an afternoon on the beach. The weather is nice and the water is nice. The kids are having fun at one of the city’s most beautiful, albeit heavily man-modified, natural retreats.
That’s when I see them. Dozens of discarded water balloons feet away from the shoreline. There is no question about it. These bits of plastic will end up in the ocean, guaranteed. There is nothing I can hope for that will stop this: no landfill, no grates at the end of city drain lines, nothing.
Well there may be billions of pounds of plastic already in the ocean, but these would not join them. In an act of true desperation, I took one of my kids sand buckets, filled it with the garbage surrounding the little area where we set up our beach spot and took it to a garbage can.
I did not save the world. I get it. There was way more plastic on that beach, and there will continue to be more plastic on that beach and every other city beach every day.
But as a Christian I know it is not my job to save the world. A guy named Jesus took on that responsibility and is doing more than fine at it. It’s just my job to be faithful and do good where I can.