Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Day of Service

by G.M. Malliet

Is it just chance that my turn to blog is on Inauguration Day? Because it does seem fitting - we've had a front-row seat for weeks to some of the preparations for the inauguration. Rather thrillingly, we've had the Coast Guard zipping up and down the Potomac River in their fast boats, no more than a block from our house. Bridges into DC from Virginia have now been blocked (and didn't that go over well with the Virginians - we can't even walk across some of these bridges). Chartered buses have been jamming the roads for days now. We've had Air Force jets steadily circling overhead - we're on the flight path to National, so we've been declared a no-fly zone for private and commercial planes. (The sky, at least, is blissfully quiet.)

But it's also been weird. If I walk down our main street, I'm liable to be walking behind some guy with a Glock strapped to his thigh. Take the Metro, and there's someone standing there with a submachine gun.

We could be at war, but we're just trying to get a president safely into the White House.

A lot of people opted out of the whole thing and are spending the four-day weekend elsewhere. I wish I could tell you I am reporting from an undisclosed location, but in fact, in the end, I wanted to feel that I was a part of this occasion (although buckets full of gold could not induce me to be among the mobs of people standing around for the swearing in - we'll watch that on TV from the safety of either our living room or Market Square).

But it all makes me awfully proud - again - to be an American. When Obama was elected, people in Europe and elsewhere said how great it was that America was finally growing up. But ... do you see a lot of black or mixed-race leaders in, for example, Europe? Sorry, because I know this gets aggravating, but I think this is America - once again - leading the way.

I digress. The topic is the Day of Service. Yesterday, as a change from the siege mentality, and wanting at least to be part of the National Day of Service, we joined the volunteers of getinvolved.gov and local high-schoolers in helping clean up the grim shores of the tidal Potomac. George Washington's Potomac is a beautiful river, as long as you can overlook the plastic bottle caps, tires, and miscellaneous garbage that has accumulated along its shores. You would probably not want to eat any fish you might manage to catch in it. All this a few short miles from the White House. These terrific volunteers couldn't overlook the destruction of our natural resources any longer, and some time ago began helping the Park Service clean up the broken beer bottles, the construction junk, and the ubiquitous plastic.

Here's a small, tiny fraction of what they managed to clear in a few hours - see below. Incredible. Nothing more to say. Just: incredible that we let it get to this. I applaud our new president for getting more people moving on this day to help save our environment.

Obama has a lot on his plate - the economy alone is a fulltime job for a hundred thousand people.

Maybe if we help take care of the planet he can focus more on the rest of everything else.


Keith Raffel said...

What better way to celebrate the new president than cleaning up his backyard. Thanks, Gin.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Gin, picking up trash is such a smart and simple way to start the process rolling. We can all do SOMETHING, even if it doesn't seem big or heroic. It's the momentum, the energy, and the gift of service that counts. Good for you!

Terri Thayer said...

I like to start by NOT throwing trash out the car window to begin with. Who are these people, anyhow?

Never mind. I'm proud to be an American because for every person who throws trash on the ground, there are six people willing to pick it up w/o complaint.

Go, Gin!

Cricket McRae said...

We have been open, willing, and able to meet the needs of this nation for quite a while, if only offered the chance, the call.

I'm proud of you, Gin. I'm proud of everyone who does their part, whether it's volunteering to clean up trash, reducing, re-using or any other way of being of service to our collective need.

I don't care what the pundits say; every time I hear the Obama inaug speech -- and so far that's three times (I was afraid it would lose impact, so I've actually avoided listening over and over) I get chills. Honest to g*d chills. I don't know how much is content and how much is language -- which as a writer I love -- but I feel it under my skin.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Wonderful post, Gin. All it takes is each of us doing our small part every day to keep things rolling in a positive direction. Good community service should be as natural as brushing our teeth.

G.M. Malliet said...

Terri - Couldn't agree more about the people throwing trash out of their car windows. They also throw it off their fancy yachts into the river. Grrr.

& Did you see the mess left behind on the parade route yesterday? I mean, it's great to have everyone visit DC. Now, if you'd please pick up after yourselves before you head home...

But...what a day. Just smashing.