Monday, July 18, 2011

Clean City: Tell Me Why.

Tell Me WHY.

The Beatles first connected me to the question; tell me why, on their album A Hard Day’s Night. Blink 182, Taylor Swift, the Backstreet Boys, and Neil Young all sing a song of the same title. However, my current favorite that asks “Tell me Why is titled “Hey World (Don’t Give Up)” sung by Michael Franti.  Franti asks, “Tell me why on this hill all the birds they used to come to fly here, come to die here.” He asks, “Tell me why there’s child soldiers, tell me how to fight diseases, tell me now, won’t you please”. Amidst many heart wrenching questions, he sings, I try, try, try, and don’t give up on me I won’t give up on you; Hey world, what you say?

On a scale closer to my ability, my very young nephew would, each time his family visited ours, ask why. “Why are the jets so loud?” Because Christopher, they use jet propulsion to become airborne (driving airflow over the wings creating lift). “But why Uncle Bernie, do they need to become airborne?”  The pilots need to practice flying.  “Why Uncle Bernie, do they need to practice?” They need to be prepared to fight for our freedom. “But why?” On and on he would ask why until another subject came up to ask why about or I just ran out of answers, real or made up.

I admired the curiosity, the non-linear analysis, and the persistence of Christopher who looked at the world the way  many children do, with eager interest in learning why things happen, and why others behave the way they do. Christopher was often unwilling to give up asking why until reaching the true root answer showing me, the adult, that I had accepted for myself many shallow answers that were not really answers at all. “Hey Uncle Bernie, what you say?” often left me with the same indignation, Tell me Why.

Now that Christopher is grown up, I carry on asking why. Not tell me why questions like Michael Franti poses; those are bigger than I can get my head around. Mine are more mundane everyday life questions, like why don’t neighbors each cut their grass at the same time to eliminate the cacophony of Briggs and Stratton’s throughout the weekend. Moreover, tell me why so many folks haul away nature’s own fertilizer –lawn clippings instead of mulching or leaving them on the lawn. Lawn clippings are full of nutrients and organic matter.  

Tell me why asphalt is ‘planted’ and maintained while environment-softening trees that provide shade and beauty are an afterthought and often neglected in urban parking lots.

Tell me why anyone living in Vermont would ever complain about hot weather when it takes most of June and July to thaw out from winter and a snow-ridden spring.  I try, try, try, not to complain about the long winters, and I never give up on Vermont with its’ beautiful luscious green that amazingly comes back every year even if it takes a bit longer than I would prefer.

You might ask tougher questions like Michael Franti or dig deeper into the initial answers like my nephew Christopher. The key is not to give up. Don’t give up on asking, seeing what might be made better in the world and what you can do about it.

Like Michael Franti sings, “Don’t give up on me and I won’t give up on you”.

Just tell me why we can’t eradicate litter in our communities year round. Hey world, what you say?  

Litter Picking is an All Season Sport.

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