Wednesday 23 October 2013

Family time, and a whole lot of trash

The kids got tote bags and I have no idea why,
but opted to wear them as hats. Sorta.
Last month, we took Alan's kids with us for something a little different. There was an event happening down
on the Ottawa riverbank called the Shoreline Clean-Up, hosted by the World Wildlife Federation, Loblaws, OLG, and a few others. Mom was going down with her colleagues as a staff team, and she invited us to come along. I said yes weeks in advance, because I wasn't expecting torrential downpour.

But torrential downpour, we got.

We're lucky it's been a warm autumn for us up here in Ottawa. Everything was calm and clear in the morning when we piled into Alan's van, but as he dropped us off to look for parking, the skies just opened up. I nestled Blueberry into my neck in the hopes I'd keep her dry, but the rain hit us from every direction and soon the only thing dry on her was whatever had been covered by her raincoat. Max hadn't wanted to bring his jacket, so his hoodie was soon soaked through, and we ended up getting an oversized 'volunteer' tee shirt to change him into when the weather calmed down.

We spent the next two hours picking litter up off of the riverbank down by the Parliament buildings. Everything from gum wrappers to pillowcases were scattered about the area, and in a short time our team filled several garbage bags with various disgusting things. The teams gathered again on the riverbank for sandwiches and cake while a giant (soaking wet) panda mascot danced about. It was an odd way to spend a Saturday morning.

But here's what surprised me: the kids loved it. When we were first running down to the sign-in tent, rain sleeting off our faces and running into our sneakers, I was convinced we'd be back in the car with two whining kids within the first twenty minutes. But when we arrived, Mom swung Blueberry up in her arms and they both happily wandered around together greeting various friends and strangers. Max seemed to take the science of the whole thing very seriously, and was amazed by the variety of strange things we found during the cleaning. He was also thrilled when, at one point, he unearthed a twenty-dollar bill and was allowed to keep it.

It wasn't the panda mascot, nor the cake that made the children love it: it was the act itself. We had explained to the kids that this was something we were doing “for the earth”, and even little Blueberry, at three years old, seemed to understand.

Oh sure, we had some hitches; Blue slipped in the mud at one point so I scooped her up and sat on a rock singing Elvis songs to her until strangers started joining in. Max refused to change out of his wet 'volunteer' shirt and I spent the rest of the day worried he was going to catch cold. But all in all, the kids loved what we did that day: we all got together as a team, and made a tangible difference for the planet. No big reward to be had, no fancy party: just a light lunch and a wet panda, and a few hundred pounds of trash. 

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