I’d like to think that most people would have described me as gracious before I had children. I’d also like to think that I started each day with a grateful heart. But, I strongly believe that having children makes us more conscientious of expressing gratitude, especially to model gracious behavior for our children. But, being a mom of a child with special needs brings the concept of “thankfulness” to a whole new level. Here is one of the many things I’m particularly grateful for this season.
Yep...garbage cans. It’s finally perfect weather for strolls through the neighborhood. And my kiddo happens to LOVE going for walks. Sometimes all it takes is a walk to the end of the street before he says “All done. Go home now mom.”And sometimes, it’s endless walks that still end with a screaming kiddo who doesn’t want to go back home yet. But let me tell you what isn’t a peaceful walk: garbage cans on the sidewalk. Add to that, driveways that end with a curb instead of a sloped entrance from the street. Going for walks with my kiddo who is in a wheelchair is definitely a challenge on Tuesdays and Fridays. Tuesdays, we are dodging the big black garbage cans. And on Fridays, it’s the peach recycling bins. I’m all for proper disposal of trash. But it wasn’t until one day, I realized how much more dangerous and difficult it was for me to maneuver around the cans stationed in the middle of the sidewalk. He happened to love the bumpier ride of going up and down the curbs, especially when we’d have close calls of tipping over as he’d hear me panic. But safety soon became a concern for me and we would avoid walks altogether on those days. While I’m not up to speed on ADA guidelines, which I probably should be particularly about wheelchair access, courtesy was what popped into my head and that’s what stuck there. I noticed that 99% of garbage bins were on the sidewalk and not in the street. I noticed that moms with strollers had to either walk in the street or do the same as me all while trying not to wake their sleeping baby going up and down curbs. I’ll admit, this courtesy may not have been top of mind for me prior to our wheelchair lifestyle, but not out of lack of courtesy. It just wasn’t something I had to think about. It wasn’t something that, dare I say it, affected me. Again, I’m courteous and thoughtful, maybe even too courteous to a fault at times. And I don’t like to stir up drama especially when it comes to neighbors or those that may not know how blocked sidewalks can affect families like ours.
So, instead of pointing fingers or complaining to every neighbor or worse, avoiding walks altogether, I simply asked on one of the broader-reaching local neighborhood apps what the protocol was for garbage cans and proper placement. We aren’t originally from here and where we are from, we had a larger and wider approach to our driveway so garbage cans did not interfere with sidewalk traffic at all. I certainly learned some lessons on human kindness, empathy and courtesy from the replies I received. Don’t I know how unsafe it was for vehicles to have to avoid the bins if they were in the street? Do I realize how garbage cans can block the view of street traffic when backing out of your own driveway? How do I expect someone that is also physically unstable to get their bins on and off the curb and into the street? I get it…it’s not ideal for everyone. Nor do I ever expect 100% agreement when it’s not a cause that affects the majority. After all, it’s just garbage cans we are talking about here. It still struck a chord with me how unthoughtful some can be. But then I soon realized how sometimes people just don’t know. And how do we change our behavior if we just don’t know? Fast forward, moms in my own neighborhood got wind and next thing you knew, one mom brought it to the HOA board and low and behold, we had clear sidewalks.
The thread of responses on my original post quickly turned positive and encouraging and not just in my neighborhood but throughout nearby neighborhoods.
Stepping outside one beautiful morning was breathtaking. Not only did we step out into crisp fall air under the blue skies, but I saw the loveliest site. Our street was lined with garbage cans in the streets and not on the sidewalks. We walked up and down multiple streets throughout our neighborhood and I saw the common theme. It’s almost as if I had to prove that it was not a dream. And it warmed my heart. This may sound so trivial to some. But to this mama who must find joy in the little things, the everyday things, the courteous actions of those in our community, I was overjoyed. So this fall, or really everyday, ask yourself, "what are you thankful for?" I bet you’ll find more joy in the everyday things if you start each day with a grateful heart and know that there is always something to be grateful for. Open your heart and you will find it.