Perfection in Imperfection

Amma.org: Litter Project

The day after the Fourth of July last year was quite a traumatic day for me. During my morning walk with the dogs at the waterfront, we found piles of garbage left from the festivities the night before. Most of the piles were where the food vendors had been. The dogs and I spent well over two hours in a 100 yard space picking up and sorting the trash. 

As the Fourth neared this year, I thought about how I could help change the situation. At first, I thought about contacting the fair’s organizers and asking them to increase the price the vendors have to pay if they leave a mess. Then, the idea came to make three large banners. Never having done this before, I pondered what to make them from. It occurred to use three old sheets from some past Amma retreat days. Then, I thought about what to put on them. The answer came quickly: "Keep it clean and green Tacoma, please use trash and recycle bins."

I got to work cutting each sheet in half and sewing them together. House paint was used for the lettering on one, but was drying too slowly so I used permanent markers on the others. Those that know me know that I really try to do all that I do perfectly, without blemish. On the painted banner, there were so many drip marks I couldn't count them. While I fretting about all the drip marks, the thought "There is perfection in imperfection" came into my mind. That was the running theme for both this whole endeavor and my life at this moment in time.

I made signs on sticks that could be pounded into the ground out of foam board from the dollar store. A friend found pictures showing the effect trash has on the ocean and the creatures that call it home. I printed the pictures and then collected cigarette butts to tape on the signs. The text spoke of the effect the butts have on fish. Another friend and her child helped by writing “Please help pick up trash” along with their hand prints on the back of the signs.

There are many, many components to this story, but space will not allow me to detail them all. Throughout I felt inner guidance and on numerous occasions I had to let go of my own plans in order for the project to progress. On the morning of July 4th, I awoke at 4 a.m. and drove to the waterfront. Many vendors were setting up. Those who saw me had words of encouragement and every sign and banner went up without any problems. When I placed the last banner, the sun rose. That morning in particular was quite shining and beautiful, so clear and bright!

On July 5th, I awoke at 5 a.m. prepared to collect the banners and signs and pick up trash. As I approached the site where the food vendors had been, what I saw brought a large smile to my face and some tears to my eyes. There were two dumpsters full of trash and very, very little near the ocean. My heart was singing with joy as I collected the signs. Twenty out of the 26 signs and one of the banners were missing, but it didn't matter for they had done their job, fulfilled their purpose!!

I found myself walking further down the waterfront than I usually picked up trash. Where the beer garden and stage had been set up, there were recyclable cups strewn all over and empty recycle bins nearby.Usually, I am praying for the person who dropped the trash rather than being angry at them. Anger serves no-one and doesn't leave the warm fuzzies in my heart that the prayer does. There were so many cups though. I started singing "Jai Mata Ki, Jai Mata" in a way I hadn't heard it chanted before. This continued while I cleared the area of all the cups, at least an hour’s time. By the end, I was full of bliss.

In the parking lot, one of the park officials asked if I were angry, sad or happy the amount of garbage this year. I smiled and told him that I was ecstatic for there was so much less than in previous years and that the signs had worked! He smiled and said they had figured it was me, but they weren't sure. The feedback from regular walkers was that the garbage this year was at least 1/2 of what it had been in years past; that the signs had worked at raising consciousness! The next day, one of my walking buddies handed me a business card from the Solid waste supervisor, saying that he wanted to talk to me. When I called him, he said he just wanted to thank me for all the effort we put into the signs and the information presented on them. He said that information was well presented and didn't try to make people feel bad.

Thanks to all the people who helped make this venture a success and special thanks for the lesson gave in following inner guidance. I pray that we may all be still enough to 'hear' the guidance that is so freely given to us.

Submitted by Achala, from the Tacoma Satsang

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