I took the whole day off yesterday (well, except for that one little posting incident on my blog. But that was force of habit. It could hardly be helped).
And then there was that other thing.
It was a nice, sunny day yesterday—cold, but sunny. So, I decided to pack a picnic lunch and take a walk in the woods. I chose the Northbank/Buttermilk Trail loop which goes from the Boulevard Bridge down along the north bank of the James to the Lee Bridge, and then back up to the Boulevard Bridge along the Buttermilk Trail on the south bank. It’s about a 6.3 mile loop, with lots of ups and downs to keep it interesting.
My first experience of the Buttermilk Trail was in the fall, when the sunlight filtered through the red, yellow, and orange leaves and fell to the ground in leaf-sized patches of gold. It was glorious. Yesterday’s hike was a little more bare, brown, and wintry, but I was surprised by this burst of daffodil blooms (above) at the place where I stopped to shed my jacket.
And there were all those other things to see: a Great Blue Heron gliding to a stop above a tree limb and settling itself there, folding its wings like an umbrella; five Canada Geese diving for something delicious on the muddy bottom of the river, their tail feathers pointing toward the sky; and, to my surprise, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus train, parked on a side track (I kept looking for the extra-large car where they keep the elephants and the extra-tall car where they keep the giraffes, to no avail; that may be only in my imagination).
But here’s that other thing: as I was getting close to the Boulevard Bridge, near the end of my hike, I saw that some careless hiker or biker had dropped a piece of trash on the trail. At first I just muttered under my breath and walked on by. I had seen so much beauty on my hike, and it had done so much to restore my soul. It was like this perfect moment in time I was going to frame and hang on the wall of my memory.
But then somebody threw a piece of trash on it.
I could have just picked it up. I should have. But it didn’t look like the kind of trash you would want to touch with your hands. I had a trash bag in my pack, but I didn’t really want to unbuckle everything, set it down, open the pack, take out the bag, and poke the trash into it with a stick. That seemed like too much trouble, and I was almost to the end of my hike.
So, I kept walking, but as I did I remembered something I’ve said at Richmond’s First Baptist Church over and over again: “How do you bring heaven to earth? It’s simple. Just look around for anything that doesn’t look like heaven and then roll up your sleeves and go to work.” Well, that piece of trash on the trail didn’t look like heaven. In fact, I thought, “In heaven there won’t be any trash on the trails.” And so I went back, dropped my pack, and did all those things I had been reluctant to do before.
Now, that seems like a small thing, doesn’t it? I picked up a piece of trash. Big woo. But think about it: if everybody who threw trash down began to pick it up; if everybody who cursed others began to bless others; if everybody who hurt others began to heal others; if everybody who hated their neighbors began to love their neighbors; if everybody who hated God began to love God…heaven would come to earth.
I believe that’s what Jesus was after, really: inviting the whole human race to join him in the redemption of the world God loves rather than its destruction.
Picking up a piece of trash is a tiny thing, but it’s a tiny thing in the right direction.