I should be cleaning out the garage for our final garage sale before we move to London in 2 weeks, but something has been on my mind since yesterday. My good friend, who I moved to California with ten years ago came up from Los Angeles and had a visit with us. She came with my mom, son and me to do some errands so we could catch up.
After dropping my mom off at our holistic dentist, we stopped at a coffee shop to cool off with an iced coffee and tea and sit outdoors to enjoy the northern california sunshine while we waited for her to finish. My 2 year old sat contentedly enjoying juice and his organic Teddy Puffs tucked inside an environmentally-friendly Waste Not Sak that replaced our Ziploc bags months ago. Nearby another mom sat reading a paper with her 6-ish year old boy.
My son dropped a Teddy Puff on the ground, like toddlers do sometimes and wanted me to pick it up. I, of course obliged and tossed it into some nearby bushes and told my son that “the birds can eat it now. They’ll like it, it’s organic.” Within a minute the little boy with the sandy blond bowl cut from the table over was peering into the bushes in front of us with a napkin in hand, trying desperately to locate something. I asked my friend quietly, ” do you think he is looking for the Teddy Puff?” She thought he might be, although we both thought that it would be strange and ridiculous, if true.
The boy walked away defeated with a angry, sour look on his face. My friend, never shy, asked him what he was looking for. He replied, with a scowl “the food you threw in there”. I was shocked for a couple of reasons. My friend told him it was just a little organic piece of food that had fallen on the ground, so we gave it to the birds. The boys mother finally chimed in and said “he doesn’t like it when people give food to the birds. They eat their own food. He wants it to go in the trash.” (Something to that effect.)
Okay, so I am annoyed for several reasons. I found the boys concern for the environment commendable, but his manner completely rude. I gathered that he got his cues from his mother, who, while not quite as rude, was snide in her remark and obviously agreed with her son. Now, I understand that the more we feed animals the more they rely on us. But birds? They hang around wherever there is a dumpster or trash cans looking for food. They always find it. Some of these birds have become domesticated and do rely on us for some food now.
Secondly, I wasn’t purposely trying to feed birds. I would rather an organic piece of food decompose under a bush than sit in a plastic bag in the trash can and take who-knows-how-long to decompose inside plastic at an air-starved landfill. Honestly, if my compost bin wasn’t on a ship to London, I would have brought it home. After all, I brought home my plastic cup, since the coffee shop didn’t have a recycling bin.
So while the Marin Mom sipped her coffee, she and her son sat judging my choice to throw one teeny food morsel into the bushes. Meanwhile, right behind the boy sat 4 or 5 cigarette butts and a couple of napkins on the sidewalk. Did those not offend? Couldn’t the poor bird mistake the butts for food? So I am offended that his actions -right in front of me- were meant to offend me. And, I find that rude of a child or anyone. What happened to manners? Can’t we have polite little environmentalists?
Now, I ask you. Is something as small as a Teddy Puff the gateway to larger littering? Is it the idea of littering in general that bothered them? I hate litterbugs too. But I always saw littering as throwing cups, bags and cigarettes on the ground, instead of their proper receptacles. Would I have thrown a banana peel in the bushes? Probably not. So why did I think a little piece of food was okay? I don’t know. But I did. And I would do it again. What would you do?
As Marin Mom, in all her self-righteousness, drove off in her silver Prius, I am asking myself if I did the wrong thing. I don’t drive a hybrid, but I also haven’t eaten red meat for 15 years. I bring my own reusable bags to the store, I shop at my local farmer’s market, I carry a reusable water bottle, I grow some of my own vegetables, compost, reduce, recycle and reuse. We drink tap water now and limit disposable plastic in our home. We make strides everyday so that my son will learn to appreciate and care for the environment too. Do you think my son will get the wrong message about throwing food in the bushes? Or do you think Marin Mom and Marin Child are over the top?