**Originally blogged last August. I haven’t gone running since then, but the lesson learned still stands, and if I go an early morning walk, I sometimes see this woman, still doing her bit. Her actions inspired me to pick up any litter I see while out and about, something I should have been doing anyway – but better late than never**
I used to love an early morning run on the beach. Two years ago I lived a ten-minute (if that) drive away from a long, sandy and secluded rural beach which I would run on at least three times a week. I now live less than a minute from a small, much less rural sandy beach and until recently I hadn’t run on it once.
Now, I just want to make something clear. I am not a fan of ‘running’. I am a fan of ‘running by the shore’ or ‘running on the beach’. Therefore I either run on the beach or I don’t run at all. The reason I never took to running here is because I suspected the beach would be busier, given that its in the town, and its a smaller beach, I wouldn’t have as much space to myself.
But one morning, after months of putting it off, I bit the bullet and I ran. It was amazing. The beach was vast, windy, open, cold, alive. And for most of the time I was by myself. As I did my second length I noticed a woman come down to the beach with a bucket. I said a breathless hello as I jogged past, trying to pretend I wasn’t about to keel over due to having not run for over a year (especially seeing as I recognised her as a PE teacher from my High School days, now retired) but never took much note until I stopped farther along the beach and looked back. I could see her walking about, looking as if she was picking things up, but again I didn’t take a huge amount of notice. I was too busy taking in the gentle swell of the tide as it eased further up the beach, and the seabirds pottering around on the shoreline.
A few days later, I found out via chance conversation that this woman comes down to the beach every morning and clears up all the litter from the day before, be it deposited by visitors or by the tide. How bloody awesome is that?!
It’s really made me think. To be fair, the beach is a clean one, and its pretty much free from litter; now I know why. Also, I felt that morning that the beach was mine. But this has made me realise that at this time of the day, the beach is hers. Very much so. It’s such a selfless thing to do. I don’t know what motivates her but I’d love to find out, and I admire her for it. In this day and age life can be so devoid of purpose, yet it’s small, quiet gestures like this that can mean the most – not to everyone else using the beach, but to her. Knowing that she’s contributing to society every single day, in her own way.
I’m heavily involved in litter and environmental issues anyway, but this woman’s actions have inspired me even further. I never drop litter myself but unless I’m on an organised pick, I tend to walk past any. But now, if I see an abandoned juice can or sandwich wrapper, I’ll pick it up and put it in the nearest bin. And when I do so, I think about this woman and offer her a silent thanks for giving a shit when many others don’t. Through me, and any others who do the same, she’s managing to keep the town clean without even being there.
I’d love to be as inspirational as that some day. And one morning, when the beach is hers, I intend to tell her this.