Yesterday, while I was driving Thomas around the park where I live, a guy in a golf cart in front of me dropped a lit cigarette butt in the street.
These were my thoughts:
Whoa. Seriously? Is this an episode of "What Would You Do?"
Does he not realize how the toxins in that cigarette butt can harm the wildlife here?
Should I stop and pick that up?
Should I stop and pick that up and follow him and as soon as he stops hand it back to him? (Side note here: I have done this twice before with people I witnessed littering. "Excuse me," I said nicely, handing it back to them. "You dropped something." This produced a very satisfying feeling in myself both times, though I was cussed out twice, once in Spanish and once in English.)
Should I stop and pick it up and follow him to where he lives, then wait until dark and leave the butt in his mailbox or on his front porch or some other conspicuous place where he will be disgusted by it, as I am disgusted by seeing it there in the street?
I would not have said, "The world is not your ashtray, pal," but I would have thought it, and that thought would probably have been reflected on my face.
In the end, I did nothing. By the time I'd thought through all of these scenarios, I was a half mile away from the smoldering butt, and the man had since putted out of sight. But it bothered me all evening that I did nothing.
Would it have changed his behavior if I'd said something, done something? Probably only in this way: The next time he started to toss a butt away, he would have looked around to make sure no one was watching. But still....
I wasn't afraid to do or say something. I was simply indecisive. Because I didn't already have a rehearsed scenario for this. (If you're an extrovert, you may have trouble grasping this. All my introvert readers are nodding their heads knowingly. It's what we do; 'If they say this, I'll say that.' We have to know in advance what to say or do because the portion of our brain containing language shuts down and we go into fight or flight mode when faced with confrontation or any kind--even if it's, "Hi! How's your day going?")
Even when it feels uncomfortable, though, I need to respond. Because this community where I live (fifty-five and over, so this guy was certainly old enough to know better) is a microcosm of my town, of my state, of my country. And I love my town and my state and my country. So I should always be ready to assert myself if there's an opportunity to speak up, to say, "Hey, that's not appropriate here" in any situation.