Today, as Santiago and I were out on a walk to pick up trash as we do about once a week, a young couple approached us and began to ask us some questions. They were visiting from Teguc. enjoying the river in La Divina. Their questions were the usual demographic and why are you here-type questions.
Then the woman surprised me. She said, "You know we were talking about how you are an example to the rest of the community. You, a foreigner, are willing to do something that the community itself is not willing to do. Your picking up trash makes people reflect on what they do with their garbage and why."
I was taken aback for a moment. I indeed did want the community to stop throwing trash on the ground and had hoped that if they saw a clean path, perhaps they would refrain from the practice. However, I didn't realize that my position as a foreigner reiterated the point.
I am glad to pick up garbage (at least for now) as it gives me a chance to chat with Santiago, it gets me outside, and we are doing something positive for the world however small and perhaps unsuccessful (in terms of long-term change) it might be. In fact, the activity gives me a sense of peace and joy. No, it is not breaking down structures of inequality or the matrix of domination that maintains suffering, but, damn it, it is something concrete that on our walk tomorrow I can smile about.
I guess I am finding that I need to have a little bit of both--critiquing practices of injustice while also offering solutions AND doing small random acts of kindness.